Some goods are starting to vanish from shops because of a shortfall of as many as 65,000 HGV drivers.
Gaps are starting to appear on supermarket shelves because of a “desperate shortage” of lorry drivers – a problem that will likely lead stores to raise food prices.
Piles of fresh produce are going to landfill and some goods are starting to vanish from shops because of a shortfall of as many as 65,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.
The “escalating crisis” stands to affect supplies of goods from fruit and vegetables to milk and cheese, the boss of a leading produce company has warned.
Brexit, which prompted thousands of EU lorry drivers to leave the UK, the introduction of IR35 tax changes in April, which has driven up costs, and a lack of driver training and tests during the pandemic has led to “a desperate shortage of lorry drivers”, said Tim O’Malley, managing director of Nationwide Produce.
“It’s an escalating crisis… deliveries are not going to supermarkets. Produce is prepared, packed, ready to go, and not being delivered.”
“Hundreds of loads of produce a day” are being “rolled” – their delivery to stores being delayed by a day or more, Mr O’Malley added.
This is shortening the produce’s shelf life or leaving food spoiled by the time it reaches its destination.
Covid-19 had seen no new British truck drivers trained within the past 12 months, while changes in the rules of self-employment had led to a 25% increase in agency driver charges.
John Lucy, head of international transport at the Road Haulage Association, estimates the deficit of drivers is in the region of 65,000, and has appealed to the Home Office to add HGV drivers to its skilled worker shortage occupation list, making it easier for applicants to come to the UK for work.
“We need to access more drivers from all over the world,” Mr Lucy said.
“I’d expect prices in general will increase… all supply chain costs get passed on eventually to [the] end buyer.”
The Home Office said in a statement: “Employers should focus on investing in our domestic workforce, especially those needing to find new employment, rather than relying on labour from abroad.
“The Government is working with the haulage sector to promote jobs, training and a range of other initiatives to get more people into HGV driving.”