The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has called cabotage “the wrong tool” if the UK Government wants to relieve the HGV pressure that is in part causing the supply chain crisis.
Speaking in front of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee, RHA’s director of policy Duncan Buchanan said this morning that cabotage will be “shockingly damaging” for the UK domestic model’s medium and long term improvements.
“Instead of importing drivers with their lorries, visa-free, who pay no tax and no contribution to the enforcement of this country, what we need to do – if we need to import that labour – is employ them here and have them pay taxes here,” he told the committee.
Buchanan’s comments come after the UK Government announced on Thursday its plans to allow transport drivers from European countries to make deliveries in the UK as a way to relieve the pressure on the supply chain.
According to the new cabotage law – which will last up to six months – the government will grant European hauliers unfettered access to the UK market for two weeks at a time before going back to the continent.
Buchanan believes the move will negatively impact the British road haulage sector, as UK companies – that pay higher wages and taxes in line with labour laws – will be in a disadvantaged position compared to foreign labour markets where there is a less strict enforcement of rules.
“What you are doing with the cabotage is you’re offshoring everything overseas to low wage markets, with zero enforcement of minimum wage laws,” he said.
Buchanan added that, instead of importing cheaper labour from European countries, the UK Government should focus on “fixing and reforming” drivers’ certificates of professional competence – which is seen as an impediment to drivers coming back.
The shortage of HGV drivers caused main issues at UK ports such as Felixstowe that suffered log-jams because there were not enough drivers to unload the cargo at ports.