Driver shortage turns critical, warns ParcelHero

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There are calls for the army to mobilise to protect the UK’s food supplies as the national shortage of truck drivers escalates, says ParcelHero.

It estimates that the UK has a shortfall of around 70,000 drivers that could lead to delays, empty shelves and higher prices.

Last October, the home delivery company warned of a driver shortage as around a quarter of a million EU workers left the UK.

It now says that food wholesalers are demanding that army drivers are put on standby to cope with shortage.

ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks, said: “Home deliveries of food and goods are already being impacted by the driver shortage, with some stores also running low on stock.

“We could soon be facing shortages as bad as those at the start of the first lockdown, which could mean a return to the rationing of staple foods.

“The reason is all too obvious. Our analysis of Government figures last October showed thousands of EU drivers and warehouse operatives fleeing the UK to avoid Brexit regulations.”

“Many EU citizens didn’t meet the Government’s proposed criteria for skilled work visas. This mass exodus was exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19, which brought the training of new lorry drivers to a standstill.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is calling on Government to urgently introduce a range of measures to help recruit and train drivers

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett says what has been a longstanding problem has been exacerbated by the upturn in the economy.

“Increasing demand across supply chains and the reopening of nonessential retail outlets and parts of the hospitality sector is making the situation even worse,” he said.

Jinks continued: “UK retailers and their supply chain partners now face a perfect storm. Ken Murphy, the chief executive of Britain’s largest supermarket, Tesco, has admitted his company is having to ‘work hard’ to keep up with the shortfall, while some wholesalers say they have already reached crisis point as they attempt to deliver to supermarkets, pubs, schools and care homes.

“As problems mount, it’s not surprising the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) is calling for army drivers to be put on standby to protect vulnerable communities where food deliveries are at risk.

“It says fresh produce suppliers are already being forced to dump supplies of fruit and vegetables for lack of delivery drivers.”

The shortage in HGV drivers is identified as one of the top challenges for the commercial fleet industry in a new report from Shell and Frost and Sullivan.

The whitepaper, Navigating Roadblocks in the Long-Haul Road Freight Industry, sheds light on the status of the industry as the world recovers from the pandemic.

To keep both local and global supply chains running smoothly, it says that fleet managers are tasked with performing a “daily balancing act”

For more on how the shortage of HGV drivers has been exacerbated as UK economy bounces back after lockdowns, see the June edition of Commercial Fleet

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