Supply Chain

Supermarket leaders warn of Christmas supply shortages

Richard Walker, executive chairman at Iceland, told the BBC that he estimated the UK’s shortage of lorry drivers to be 100,000, with the group 100 short itself

Supermarket leaders from across the UK have warned of supply chain issues over the Christmas period due to the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers.

Richard Walker, executive chairman at Iceland, told the BBC that he estimated the UK’s shortage of lorry drivers to now be 100,000, with the group 100 short itself.

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He added: “We’ve got a lot of goods to transport between now and Christmas and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone.

“The driver shortage is impacting the food supply chain on a daily basis and leading to shortages on the shelves. We’ve had deliveries cancelled for the first time since the pandemic began, about 30 to 40 deliveries a day.”

Steve Murrels, chief executive at the Co-operative Group, added to The Times that the current shortages are “at a worse level than at any time” he has seen.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has named the pandemic as a driving force behind the shortages, as backlogs in HGV driver tests meant 25,000 fewer candidates passed their test in June 2020 than the previous year.

Moreover, the industry organisation claimed Brexit to have limited the number of available drivers.

Richard Burnett, chief executive at the RHA, said in a letter to Kevin Foster MP, the under secretary of state for future borders and immigration: “We are not going to solve this now by training new drivers, and as such need access to EU, EEA and global labour.

“We ask for the introduction of a temporary worker visa for HGV drivers, and for this occupation to be added to the Shortage Occupation List.”

However, while John Allan, chairman at Tesco, recognised that “there may be some shortages at Christmas”, he told the BBC that he “wouldn’t want to overdramatise the extent” of the issue.

Tesco has been one of many companies seen to offer additional incentives for lorry drivers, including a £1,000 joining bonus.

Responding to the warnings, a government spokesperson said that a “package of measures” have been put in place “to tackle the HGV driver shortage”.

They added: “Additionally, our plan for jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work. As part of this, we are streamlining the process for people to get their HGV licence.”

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