Britain may be about to get a flavour of what peak oil would be like if the UK’s Senior Traffic Commissioner Beverley Bell’s concerns prove correct:
“The British economy is facing a serious hit because of a dire shortage of lorry drivers. The haulage industry is heavily reliant on overseas drivers, with some 60,000 foreign drivers working on Britain’s roads. In total some 45,000 posts are currently unfilled, with the average age of a British driver 55 and a dearth of youngsters taking up new roles.”
According to Bell, this is already acting as a drag on the UK economy; something that can only get worse when Britain leaves the European Union next year:
“I regard it as vital that action is taken by the government and industry to address this shortage before it starts to have an even greater impact on the movement of goods and people across Great Britain and beyond.”
The problem is largely the result of the UK’s neoliberal approach to training, in which firms let someone else pay to train the workforce… and then poach the employees they need. This led most UK haulage companies to utilise cheaper EU workers rather than pay to train their own workforce. The fruits of that policy are now being reaped.
This is compounded by close-to-full-employment rates for jobs like driving that require skilled workers. The problem may also be made worse by the techno-utopian belief promoted in the media that driverless vehicles are just around the corner. If this is the case (it isn’t) why would anyone invest time and money training to become a lorry driver when their job may not exist in a couple of years’ time?
This all translates into a major headache for an economy that is built around a “just-in-time” (largely road) transport system. Central to concerns about peak oil is the damage that would occur as the trucks stop running (through shortages and/or high prices of fuel). But fuel is not the only thing that can bring the trucks to a halt. A widespread shortage of drivers will have the same affect. And the last time Britain’s truckers withdrew their labour, they brought the economy close to meltdown within a matter of days.
As you made it to the end…
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