In a bid to tackle supply chain problems in the run -up to Christmas, UK is set to relax the rules on the number of deliveries overseas lorry drivers can make. Under the new plans, drivers will be able to make unlimited deliveries or collections within a 14 day period. Currently EU drivers can only make two pick-ups or drop-offs each week.
It is hoped the changes will happen by December - but UK drivers fear they might lose work to cheaper EU rivals. The lorry driver shortage in the country- due to a combination of Covid, Brexit and other factors - has affected petrol stations, supermarkets and left containers piled up at Felixstowe Port unable to be moved.
Retailers have also warned there could be shortages of items such as toys at Christmas, with shoppers urged to buy gifts early. Last month, the government announced it would grant up to 5,000 temporary visas for HGV drivers from abroad - but so far only a fraction have been issued.
And the first foreign drivers brought in on the visa scheme may not even arrive for another month, sources said. But now ministers are going further, and plan to make temporary changes to rules, which govern how many jobs a haulier can make in a foreign country.
It means foreign HGV drivers that come into the country laden with goods can pick up and drop off items an unlimited number of times for two weeks before they return home. The changes still need to be approved after a one-week consultation - but if passed they will come into force "towards the end of this year for up to six months", according to the government.
It would mean thousands more HGV deliveries each month, the government said, so more goods - especially food and items that come via ports - can get delivered on schedule. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Having some additional capacity right now... it is a good idea. This is a quick way of doing it. It doesn't require visas, it's just a common sense measure. It is one of very many things. I don't think it is going to undercut or suppress the market."