Newly appointed minister for state at the Department for Transport, John Hayes MP, used the launch of the Road Haulage Association’s National Lorry Week last month to deliver a rousing speech directly to the haulage industry.
Promising to ‘look at every kind of option’, he said he would sit down with members of the industry to talk about the effects of Brexit and what the industry could do to make the most of the opportunities and challenges it presented.
Introducing John Hayes
Hayes was given responsibility for freight and logistics last month after a series of reshuffles at the DfT, which has seen three different ministers in the role in the last 12 months.
Despite the recent upheaval, Hayes claims the Government is fully committed to the freight and logistics sector. “When we say we love the lorry… We love them because of the difference they make to our economy, the jobs they create; the difference they make to the businesses they furnish and support. The significance of which should not be underestimated, and under this government and this minister, will never be underestimated.”
Hayes, who was a transport minister back in 2015 before moving on to the Home Office, insisted that he would hold an ‘open meeting’ so that everyone in the industry could have their say. He stressed that he “appreciates the value and significance of haulage” in this country.
“I am prepared to look at every kind of option”, he said. “I believe we need to be much more radical in how we build the status of this vital part of our economy. Let us quickly convene a meeting that allows us to explore these opportunities in a very open-minded way.”
The Impact of Brexit
While Hayes conceded that Brexit had created a feeling of uncertainty within the industry, particularly in terms of the number of haulage jobs held by European nationals, he insisted that this could represent an opportunity in terms of recruitment and training.
“In my constituency there are a large number of businesses that employ EU nationals as drivers”, he said. “They have done that because of supply and demand tensions; I appreciate that. Brexit will have implications for that. We do not know quite yet what implications they will be and that necessitates fresh thinking about recruitment, skilling and upskilling, bringing people into the industry from different sources.”
Opportunities for Haulage Jobs
Hayes suggested that, following Brexit, the industry may need to open its mind to recruiting from new sectors of society not usually associated with haulage jobs. He mentioned actively trying to attract older drivers into the profession.
Other suggestions included enticing more women into driving as a profession, or giving haulage jobs to people with “different social profiles”, people who are currently underrepresented in our communities.
Above all, Hayes was keen to stress that he sees the Government and the haulage industry working together to meet the challenges that they will face in the next few years. He said he saw the DfT and haulage sector as a team working together through industry bodies like the RHA.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage jobs with available drivers. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.