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Lorry drivers are offered £70,000-a-year and £2,000 ‘golden hellos’

Lorry drivers are being head-hunted in greasy spoon cafes by HGV agents offering them £2,000 signing-on bonuses and day rates that could see them earn up to £70,000-a-year, it has emerged.

Recruiters, believed to be working for employment agencies who supply supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and Tesco who can offer the best rates, are approaching drivers at transport stops and offering them ‘astronomical’ pay deals. 

The national shortage of up to 100,000 drivers has led to supply issues at supermarkets, restaurants and pubs, prompting some large chains to temporarily close or remove items from their menus.

A trucker called Barney, a long-distance Class One driver from Milton Keynes with 17 years’ experience, revealed on Naga Munchetty’s phone-in show on BBC Radio 5 Live that he was approached at a ‘well-known transport cafe near Watford’ and offered a £2,000 ‘golden hello’ to sign a two-year contract.

He told the host he was offered five night shifts a week paying £27-per-hour, with time-and-a-half for Saturdays and double-time for Sundays (£54).  

Assuming a Monday to Friday work week with eight-hour days, this would mean yearly earnings of around £56,000, with regular Saturday and Sunday shifts seeing that figure rising up to £70,000.   

‘In this industry, that is unheard of,’ Barney said. ‘I mean my boss doesn’t even earn that. They are really looking for supermarket delivery drivers to do weekends, and the money is astronomical.’

Last month it was revealed that Waitrose was offering lorry drivers more money than some head office executives – and more than the average salary for solicitors and architects – amid the national shortage.

Recruiters, believed to be working for employment agencies who supply supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and Tesco who can offer the best rates, are loitering at transport stops and approaching drivers with ‘astronomical’ pay deals. Pictured: A Tesco delivery driver outside a supermarket in central London, 9 September

Recruiters, believed to be working for employment agencies who supply supermarkets like Sainsbury's and Tesco who can offer the best rates, are loitering at transport stops and approaching drivers with 'astronomical' pay deals

Recruiters, believed to be working for employment agencies who supply supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and Tesco who can offer the best rates, are loitering at transport stops and approaching drivers with ‘astronomical’ pay deals

The supermarket was willing to pay up to £53,780 annually to ‘critically important’ large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers – dwarfing the salaries being offered for several head office jobs advertised at John Lewis Partnership, Waitrose’s parent company. 

These include two senior executive roles at £45,000, and a finance analyst job at £46,700. The figure is also more than the average salary for secondary school teachers (£40,880), solicitors (£43,190) and architects (£42,930).

Barney said the unnamed agency that offered him the job would have been working with ‘Sainsbury’s, Tesco and all the rest of the big supermarkets’. 

MailOnline has approached several large supermarket chains for comment.  

Ms Munchetty had revealed earlier on the programme that some lorry drivers had seen their salaries ‘doubled to around £70,000’, but that was said to be ‘atypical’. 

Naga Munchetty had revealed earlier on the programme that some lorry drivers had seen their salaries 'doubled to around £70,000', but that was said to be 'atypical'. Pictured: A Tesco delivery driver loads a lorry outside a supermarket in central London.

Naga Munchetty had revealed earlier on the programme that some lorry drivers had seen their salaries ‘doubled to around £70,000’, but that was said to be ‘atypical’. Pictured: A Tesco delivery driver loads a lorry outside a supermarket in central London. 

Barney said the unnamed agency that offered him the job would have been working with 'Sainsbury's, Tesco and all the rest of the big supermarkets'

Barney said the unnamed agency that offered him the job would have been working with ‘Sainsbury’s, Tesco and all the rest of the big supermarkets’

Barney also spoke of his encounter with the recruiter, saying: ‘Four days ago I was having my lunch in a well-known transport cafe near Watford and a very very well-dressed guy came in with a briefcase.

‘To cut a long story short he offered me £2,000 if I would sign a two-year contract to work for his driver’s agency. I was taken aback a bit. £2,000 is a lot of money. The figures he was coming up with are figures I’ve not heard of before.

‘He (the agent) went other tables and I saw him leave with these other drivers, so I know they’re signing them up.’   

In theory, if demand were to rise to the point where the Sunday rate was applied for each shift, it would bring in £8,640 a month and £103,680 gross per year. 

But Barney was not interested in the offer as he loves his current job, despite it paying much less – and he warned that people tempted by the lucrative offers could live to regret it.

This graph from the Department for Transport shows how the number of goods moved and lifted and distance travelled by vehicles has varied, compared to a baseline of 2004 Q4

This graph from the Department for Transport shows how the number of goods moved and lifted and distance travelled by vehicles has varied, compared to a baseline of 2004 Q4

Naga Munchetty had revealed earlier on the programme that some lorry drivers had seen their salaries 'doubled to around £70,000', but that was said to be 'atypical'

Naga Munchetty had revealed earlier on the programme that some lorry drivers had seen their salaries ‘doubled to around £70,000’, but that was said to be ‘atypical’

He added: ‘Those jobs never last – I’ve seen people take them and they never last. We do need the industry to the looked at. These Johnny-come-lately figures are going to make a fortune out of it.

‘My boss just doesn’t understand how they can offer that money and he doesn’t understand where that £2k signing on fee is coming from. It’s not sustainable and lot of drivers and going to find themselves out of work.’

James Bielby, Chief Executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, acknowledged that offers like this were happening across the logistics industry.

But he warned that the crisis will ultimately lead to higher prices for consumers.

‘You’ve got agencies and logistics specialists making a lot of money out of this crisis,’ he told the show.

‘It’s not sustainable, no. Because it will mean ultimately that the cost of goods is going up.’ 

Solving Britain’s dire shortage of truck drivers needs government intervention, the boss of supermarket group the Co-operative said on Thursday.

‘This won’t be solved in isolation, this is a global issue where the supply chain has completely broken down,’ Chief Executive Steve Murrells told Reuters on Thursday.

‘You can’t solve (a shortage of) 90,000 HGV drivers in isolation, it needs a structural change,’ he said.

Murrells welcomed the announcement on Wednesday that minister Michael Gove will lead the UK government’s response to the crisis and joined industry calls for HGV drivers to be added to the shortage occupation list so foreign workers can plug the gap.

Gove, previously the cabinet office minister, was moved to be housing, communities and local government minister in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle.

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