German driving licences issued before 1999 include entitlement to drive a small to medium-sized truck of up to 7.5 tonnes
The government has asked thousands of Germans residing in the UK to drive lorries to assist with the HGV shortage, even if they have never driven one before.
A letter was sent by the Department for Transport, signed by transport minister Baroness Vere, asking Germans who live in Britain to “consider returning” to the HGV driving sector.
The letter states: “Your valuable skills and experience have never been more needed than they are now.
“There are fantastic HGV driving opportunities in the logistics industry and conditions of employment have been improving across the sector. As well as attractive pay rates, we are seeing more options for flexible working, fixed hours, fixed days, full time and part time.”
German driving licences issued before 1999 include an entitlement to drive a small to medium-sized truck of up to 7.5 tonnes. It is understood that almost all Germans residing in the UK who hold such a licence have been sent the letter, almost none of whom have ever driven an HGV before.
One 41-year-old German man, who received two copies of the letter at his London home on Friday morning, one addressed to him and another for his wife, told The Independent.
“We were quite surprised,” he said. “I’m sure pay and conditions for HGV drivers have improved, but ultimately I have decided to carry on in my role at an investment bank. My wife has never driven anything larger than a Volvo, so she is also intending to decline the exciting opportunity.
“It is nice to know there are specialist jobs available here for us though after Brexit. We would never have been headhunted to drive a lorry if we’d gone back to Germany.”
The letter is part of the same mass mailout that has also asked ambulance drivers and paramedics to come and drive HGV vehicles.
The Department of Transport has said that data protection rules meant they were unable to filter the results.
A DfT spokesperson said: “The letter was automatically sent to almost one million people with HGV driving licences, and it was impossible to narrow the copy-list by profession due to personal data protection.”
The Treasury has denied that the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK is related to Brexit. Chief secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, told the BBC’s Today programme yesterday. “The difficulties we are facing are not unique to this country. The idea that this is somehow just a British problem is fundamentally wrong. There’s a shortage of 400,000 HGV drivers across Europe,” he said.
“The idea that this is about Brexit is to try and take us back into what is really, I’m afraid, quite a negative conversation around opportunities forgone when, if you look at the situation in Germany, if you look at the situation in Poland, if you look at the situation in France, they share these problems too.”
However, the German government is understood to have not yet written to British people living there, asking them to consider driving an HGV when they have never done so before.