Gritter driver shortage could lead to icy roads this winter

11 October 2021, 13:07 | Updated: 11 October 2021, 13:21

Some councils could face a gritter driver shortage this winter
Some councils could face a gritter driver shortage this winter. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A potential shortage of gritter drivers could lead to Britain's roads becoming dangerously icy this winter.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned some local councils may find their gritting services affected in the same way that bin collection services were impacted last month.

Eighteen councils said they were experiencing disruption to bin collection services in early September, with a lack of HGV drivers for bin lorries partly to blame.

READ MORE: Supply chain crisis: Thousands more HGV drivers to be trained - but not before Christmas

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The HGV driver shortage, which according to the latest estimates stands at about 100,000 in the UK, means councils could also struggle to find drivers usually contracted to help tackle icy roads in the winter months, The Sun reports.

Supply chain issues caused by the shortage have already led to widespread problems, including empty supermarket shelves and petrol panic buying.

Cllr David Renard, transport spokesperson for the LGA, said: "While most councils have been able to keep services running, some may find that their gritting services are affected in the same way that some have seen waste collection services impacted.

"As they do every year, councils will be working proactively to plan ahead and ensure that their winter services are as resilient as they can be."

It was revealed over the weekend that ministers will expand a fast-track scheme to allow thousands more people to be trained as HGV drivers.

However, the trainees will not finish their courses before Christmas.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday that 2,000 additional places would be opened up through "skills bootcamps" to boost the number of lorry drivers - but the courses, lasting up to 16 weeks, will not start until next month.

It brings the total number of new HGV drivers to 5,000, after ministers announced last month that 3,000 people would be able to train under the scheme.

Downing Street acknowledged the timeframe means the first fully-trained HGV drivers will not be "road ready" until February.

Labour hit out at the plans, with shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon calling them a "drop in the ocean" compared to what is required.

"It's clear the Government is either unwilling or unable to grasp the scale of the challenge facing Christmas," said Mr McMahon.

"The industry has warned that for Christmas food deliveries alone, an extra 15,000 drivers will be needed - not to mention the colossal gap ministers have already failed to plan for or properly address.

"If the Prime Minister does not treat this crisis with the seriousness that is required and show real ambition in tackling it, working people will continue to pay the price with rising costs, rocketing energy bills and bare shelves this winter."