A driver deficit has triggered calls for the Army to be on standby to deliver food to convenience stores, pubs, eateries and care homes.
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) said that the situation had reached crisis point, leading to empty racks and a prospect of empty plates, and local convenience stores have now resorted to putting up signs informing customers of shortages due to the lack of delivery drivers.
Pubs and restaurant chains are also not getting the fresh produce deliveries they expect, and supplies of beer, milk and other chilled products are being hit, while there are concerns the situation might hit tanker deliveries of fuel to petrol stations.
James Bielby, chief executive of the FWD, said there’s an estimated 70,000 shortfall in HGV drivers.
The Road Haulage Association said the crisis has been triggered by a combination of Brexit, which has led to a cut in European truckers, and COVID, which has seen no new HGV drivers trained for a year.
James Bielby said that the situation had reached a crisis point and it’s expected to get more serious as more hospitality venues open and demand increases and that the Government needs to act pretty swiftly.
He said that they were concerned enough to suggest that the Government considers having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.
James Bielby added that with the estimated 70,000 shortall in HGV drivers, some wholesalers have had to restrict the number of deliveries they make to convenience stores which has led to some availability problems.
He said product manufacturers who supply into the wholesale channel have had similar problems with drivers, and their members reporting particular problems, getting soft drinks, beer, and chilled products like cream, cheese, yoghurt and meats.
The government lengthened the hours that professional delivery drivers are permitted behind the wheel during the pandemic, however, this ended recently, and the FWD urged the Government to reinstate this and make Army drivers ready to deliver to vulnerable communities.
A sign erected in the window of a Budgens store at Greater Blakenham, near Ipswich, in Suffolk, read that due to a national deficit of delivery drivers they were experiencing cancellations in deliveries resulting in low stock around the store.
Dairy giant Arla said that this is a real crisis this Summer because of COVID creating an accumulation of new drivers passing their tests, changes to tax rules, some drivers from the EU countries returning home, some others on furlough and other factors, and that like many others in the industry, they were seeing costs going up, and they were working hard to restrict the impact that this would have on prices.
So, do people need to go out and panic buy and stock up on toilet rolls again? Because soon we will see the military on our streets slowly being increased, and things can only get worse.
And this is Boris Johnson’s Brexit, the gift that keeps giving, and even though he can’t control the basics now, like whether essential goods turn up in the shops, at least they’ve taken back control.
And there’s no surprise that there’s a deficit of lorry drivers because in truth it’s a dog’s life with tremendous responsibility, which messes up the persons home and social life, and the general public don’t even pause to consider how stocks get to the stores or the effort the drivers have to make to get them there.