License transfer won’t fill huge shortage of truck drivers, carriers warn
The removal by the government of a cap on the number of truck drivers outside Europe allowed to work in Ireland will do nothing to address a huge driver shortage as a ‘nightmare’ looms for the transport industry road as Christmas approaches, carriers have warned.
Minister of State for Business, Employment and Trade Damien English said a further overhaul of the work permit system for workers outside the European Economic Area (EEA) would allow more drivers drivers entering Ireland.
The transportation industry estimates that there is currently a shortage of 3,000 to 4,000 drivers.
More builders, hotel managers, horticultural workers, dairy farm assistants and meat processors will also be allowed to obtain work permits, as will social workers and opticians.
Mr English said he was removing a quota of 320 for work permits granted to heavy truck drivers outside the EEA. Some 187 such work permits have been issued, many of them in South Africa.
The total removal of the quota “will support the work of companies importing and exporting consumer goods and products to and from Ireland,” Mr. English said.
But Pat O’Donovan of Cork-based O’Donovan Transport said it was the extra bureaucracy involved in bringing drivers to Ireland from outside the EEA that was causing the shortage. .
“In the short term it won’t make a difference because we still have to go through all the bureaucracy,” he said.
“It needs to be streamlined and bureaucracy removed, if there is to be any sort of solution to the nightmarish problem we face in getting drivers.”
Mr O’Donovan said he currently had two requests to bring in drivers from South Africa and that it will be “at least some time in December before this process begins”.
“It’s totally ridiculous,” he added.
“The next nightmare we have is until Christmas, when we won’t have enough drivers to serve our customers. . . removing the quota will not resolve these issues in the meantime.
Transport companies have to advertise for one month in Ireland that they are looking for drivers before applying to bring one from outside the EEA. Then there is a process of visas, driver’s license exchange and other documents to complete.
Fiona Derry, of Derry Transport, which has depots in Dublin and Waterford, as well as Co Armagh, said it was a “rigorous and costly process”.
Cutting the costs of the process would be a “game changer” for the industry, she said.
“Drivers are in demand across the EU, they are in demand everywhere. . . Ireland is not more attractive than other EU countries at the moment, ”she added.
Ms Derry said transport companies were already raising wages and costs to try to attract drivers amid a double Covid and Brexit crisis, “but they can only go so far”.
Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA), said regulations to bring drivers into the country are “onerous” and “inconvenient” and can cost as much as € 4,000 per driver.
“It needs to be streamlined and modernized,” he said.
As part of the general changes to work permits, which take effect immediately, most construction jobs will now be eligible, as will dispensing opticians, while 350 additional permits are granted for directors of the hotel.
Social workers will be able to apply for an employment permit for critical skills.
Another 1,000 horticultural workers, 500 meat deboners, 1,500 meat processors, 100 dairy farm assistants and 100 equestrian work riders will receive permits.
Mr. English said the changes “would respond to more immediate skills and labor shortages in a number of key economic sectors.”