Businesses and consumers are suffering as the UK faces a shortage of some 100,000 HGV drivers out of a pre-pandemic total of approximately 600,000, based on a survey from the Road Haulage Association. The current supply chain problems in the UK have been an issue for some time. But now businesses are warning consumers could feel the effects of the lorry driver shortage until at least Christmas.
Richard Walker, managing director of frozen food store Iceland, said shortages could be rife for the festive season if the Government does not add HGV drivers to its skilled worker list soon.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Walker said: “Of course we’ve got Christmas around the corner, and in retail we start to stockbuild really from September onwards for what is a hugely important time of year.
“We’ve got a lot of goods to transport between now and Christmas, and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone.
“The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute. I’d hate this one to be problematic as well.”
Why is there a shortage of lorry drivers?
The shortage of lorry drivers is due to several factors, including Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.
Several thousand lorry drivers from the EU are thought to have been lost since Brexit.
The boss of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called for the Government to act to increase HGV driver tests and allow temporary visas for EU drivers to help plug the shortfall of workers.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “The UK faces a shortfall of 90,000 HGV drivers and it is consumers who will ultimately suffer for this.
“So far, disruption has been minimal thanks to the incredible work by retailers and their suppliers.
“Retailers are increasing pay rates, offering bonuses and introducing new driver training schemes, as well as directly supporting their suppliers in the movement of goods, but Government will need to play its part.
“We are calling on the Government to rapidly increase the number of HGV driving tests taking place, provide temporary visas for EU drivers, and to make changes on how HGV driver training can be funded.”
There were also warnings that August would see significant pressure on the shortage of lorry drivers as many workers took their summer breaks.
As per the Guardian, Rona Hunnisett of Logistics UK said there was “a pinch point with holidays. These guys have been working flat out since the start of the pandemic.”