A driver shortage has triggered calls for the Army to be on standby to deliver food to convenience stores, pubs, restaurants and care homes.
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) says the situation has reached crisis point, leading to bare shelves and a risk of empty plates. Local convenience stores are now resorting to putting up notices warning customers of shortages due to the lack of delivery drivers.
Pub and restaurant chains are also not getting the fresh produce deliveries they expect. Supplies of beer, milk and other chilled products are being hit, while there are fears the situation might affect tanker deliveries of fuel to petrol stations.
‘Supermarket shelves and restaurant plates are going empty, and this is now a crisis of national importance.’
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.
Mr Bielby said: ‘The situation has reached crisis point and it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases. The Government needs to act very quickly.
‘We are concerned enough to suggest that the Government considers having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.’ FWD members supply food and drink to independent shops, restaurants, pubs, hotels and care homes.
Mr Bielby added: ‘With the estimated 70,000 shortfall in HGV drivers, some wholesalers have had to limit the number of deliveries they make to convenience stores which has led to some availability issues.