“Trade is not getting the respect it deserves. It’s hard work”: what truckers say about supply chain crisis


Claudiu Filipescu sits in his Birch service taxi on the M62, awaiting details of his next job.

As a Romanian heavy truck driver with experience working in this country, he is exactly the type of person the government hopes to attract with a temporary visa program that will allow 5,000 foreign truckers to enter the UK with three-month contracts until Christmas Eve.

But Claudiu, who spends nine months a year working in Waterford, Ireland and the rest of the time at home with his family in the town of Bacua in eastern Romania, will not accept the offer.

“When you’re new, it’s expensive to set up,” he said.

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“There are a lot of hoops to go through.

“You see these stories of drivers making all the money. These are the same stories in Ireland and Romania.

“But companies are not paying more than they used to.

“For me it is not worth it. At Christmas I will be home with my family in Romania.”



Claudiu Filipescu

The UK is estimated to be short of 100,000 heavy truck drivers due to the return of drivers to Europe after Brexit, testing backlogs due to covid and drivers being caught in the ‘pingemia’ over the summer.

And, as the ongoing gasoline shortages have shown, it has led to a supply chain crisis that is wreaking havoc in a number of UK industries.

Paul, a Newcastle long haul truck driver who asked us not to use his last name, said that many older drivers who left the industry after the introduction of the CPC qualification professional) in 2009 had never been replaced.

“You have to sit for 35 hours while someone tells you how to do the job you’ve been doing for 30 years,” he said.

“It’s a lot of gossip. A lot of older players just said ‘I won’t do that’.

“But I have no intention of leaving the industry. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do and the company has always looked after me. “



Trucks parked at the Birch service, near Heywood, on the M62

Paul says his 18-year-old son recently became a truck driver, but admits the job is “not for everyone”

“My son used to go out with me when he was little, so he knows what it is,” he said.

“He doesn’t like long distance stuff though.

“I leave on Monday morning and come home on Friday evening or Saturday morning. You live in an 8ft by 4ft shed the entire time.

“At the end of the week you’re a little psychotic. The job doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It’s hard work.

“Everything you own, everything in your house, everything you stand in was in the back of a truck at one point.”



Jasmine holt

Jazmine Holt, 21, who drives for her father’s haulage business HB Holt and Sons in Howden, East Yorks, is one of the few women in the industry.

Currently, women make up only 1% of the workforce and attracting more women to work has been suggested as one of the ways to close the gap.

Jazmine, who travels to the Hull Docks after dropping off at the Swizzels candy factory in New Mills, says being a woman in a male-dominated industry has its perks.

“I feel like a lot of times when I go to places people are ready to help,” she said.

“In some ways I have a bit of an advantage because if someone sees me in trouble, a lot of guys will come and help me. The other guys don’t understand that.

Jazmine says some drivers have left her father’s business in recent months, but thinks most people in the industry are happy that there is a lot of work to be done.



A poster at Birch Services announcing vacant HGV driver positions

“We are really busy,” she said. “We are agitated all over the place.

“I am now going to the Hull docks to pick up a load for Aldi. We are doing a lot for Aldi at the moment.

“My dad saw a few drivers go and being a small family business we can’t compete with the big companies on wages, but he put in the money.

“People are going to choose that job that pays the most. But most of all, everyone is hanging on to it.

“During the covid it was difficult because a lot of places were closed, a lot of toilets and bathrooms were closed. Now people are happy that it is busy again and everyone is happy because there is has a lot of work to do. “



Steve sowden

Steve Sowden, 55, from Leeds, has been a truck driver for 15 years.

Taking a break from Birch Services as he returns from a building materials delivery job in central Liverpool, he says many companies are now offering ‘golden handshakes’ to new drivers.

“They say there is a shortage of drivers but I can’t see it,” he said.

“I go to companies and ask them if they are looking for drivers and they say no. We had a guy from an agency in the yard this morning and he said they have long lists of drivers.

“But I think it’s the supermarkets that have the most difficulty.

“Lots of supermarkets run all night and a lot of them don’t want to do that.”



Chris reid

Chris Reid, 42, lives in the North East, but works for a Haydock-based forklift company.

“Truck drivers make the world go round,” he said.

“There are plenty of jobs there, but I’m not looking to relocate.

“I already earn a good salary, have a good work-life balance and a lot of places only offer six-month contracts.

“I’m happy where I am. It’s not hard work. I have no complaints. The only hard thing is the traffic on the M62.”



Temporary visa program will allow 5,000 foreign truckers to enter UK on three-month contracts until Christmas Eve

Back at Claudiu’s truck, his phone rings with the details of his next destination.

As he starts up his truck, he explains that he earns four times more working in Ireland than he could in his home country.

But the sacrifice is that he is away from his family for most of the year.

“It’s very difficult, for me, for my wife, for my children, for everyone,” he said.

“But by doing this, I have money for everything because in Romania the wages are very low.

“It’s a huge sacrifice. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes I don’t know.”

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