RHA: ‘pingdemic’ could exacerbate UK’s driver shortage woes
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Following the removal of almost all coronavirus-related restrictions in England, the RHA has warned that the so-called ‘pingdemic’ could force some of the UK’s stretched workforce of lorry drivers into self-isolation, worsening the driver shortage problem.
The ‘pingdemic’ refers to the situation whereby people are instructed to self-isolate via a ‘ping' notification from the UK’s NHS Test and Trace app. All employees, whether they are HGV drivers or other essential workers, must self isolate according to the rules. Now that England has fully opened up, the fear is that the number of coronavirus cases is set to skyrocket, causing large numbers of staff in all industries to self isolate at home.
Reacting to the situation, the RHA’s Rod McKenzie told the Financial Times “Far from freedom day, it’s going to be disaster day.”
McKenzie added that the UK Government needs to “wake up” to the problems the ‘pingdemic’ could cause, stating that supply chains face chaos if already scarce HGV drivers are taken off the road.
The RHA says that fully vaccinated logistics staff ought to be allowed to continue working, so long as they produce negative lateral flow test results.
In addition, the RHA’s policy director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Martin Reid, has urged Nicola Sturgeon to replace self-isolation measures with lateral flow testing as a ‘low-risk option’ to keep trucks on the road in Scotland.
The association has also written to Roads Minister Baroness Vere to warn that healthy truckers self-isolating creates a huge strain on an already stretched workforce as the driver shortage crisis “tops 100,000″.
“As with the proposals being considered for NHS staff, we ask that instead of isolating fully-vaccinated logistics employees’, they have daily lateral flow testing’” continued Rod McKenzie. “As long as tests remain negative, they should be allowed to work. In the case of a positive test, normal protocols would of course be observed.”
The RHA adds that commercial vehicle drivers spend the greatest proportion of their day alone in their cabs, and only 0.02% test positive for Covid according to DfT.