Industry calls on PM to intervene as driver shortage set to worsen

London, UK: The Road Haulage Association, along with 21 other high-profile freight industry members, have written a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to personally intervene as the lorry driver shortage crisis looks set to have profound consequences over the coming months.

“As the summer holidays draw near and lockdown restrictions relax, the pressure that will be put on the industry responsible for keeping shelves full will increase and the producers of goods will be faced with having a stock of goods they can’t get moved. Empty shelves are already becoming apparent and, if not urgently addressed, the situation will only get worse,” the signatories to the letter tell the PM.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said that critical supply chains are now failing: “It is our collective view that there has never been a more challenging time for this industry and we urge you to take decisive steps to ensure that we can continue to maintain the UK’s integrated and finely balanced supply chains.”

The co-signatories to the letter, including the Cold Chain Federation, Culina, Wincanton and Kuehne+Nagel, are asking for the PM’s “direct support” as follows:

  1. We need an immediate solution to this problem – we are not going to solve this now by training drivers and as such need access to EU and EEA labour. We ask for the introduction of a temporary worker visa for HGV drivers and for this occupation to be added to the Home Office Shortage Occupation List. This will allow UK-registered transport operators to access a workforce that can live and work in the UK more easily and encourage those who have left to return – even if this is short-term measure whilst we concentrate on a longer-term plan. Defra already have arrangements in place that support our harvest periods when foreign labour restrictions are eased for specific demand. The same principles should be applied.
  2. Government needs to work with the industry to help address the broader issues around the skills shortage. We must work collectively to achieve a sustainable way of recruiting and training a homegrown workforce so that our reliance on foreign labour dissipates over time. We ask that a taskforce is immediately established to include representation from all of the relevant areas of Government and industry to help drive this change at the pace that is so desperately needed.
  3. The Defra Food Resilience Industry Forum, chaired by Chris Tyas, helped to ensure the nation’s supply integrity throughout the pandemic. This was recently disbanded. However, in view of the growing crisis, it must be re-established at the earliest opportunity.

The letter states: “It is our collective view that there has never been a more challenging time for this industry and we urge you to take these decisive steps to ensure that we can continue to maintain the UK’s integrated and finely balanced supply chains.”

“We firmly believe that intervention from the Prime Minister / Cabinet Office is the only way that we will be able to avert critical supply chains failing at an unprecedented and unimaginable level. Supermarkets are already reporting that they are not receiving their expected food stocks and, as a result, there is considerable wastage.

“To make the situation even worse, summer holidays are fast approaching, and drivers will take their leave entitlement. The lack of agency drivers to help support their absence will exacerbate the problem even further as will continued unlocking of the economy and the spikes in demand for food and drink created by the hot weather and major sporting events. Furthermore, the Christmas build that retailers begin in August / September will be seriously affected – all of which will affect government’s ability to “build back better”.

Richard Burnett, chief executive , RHA

Co signatories:
John Williams, executive chairman, Maritime Transport
Steve Granite, chief executive, Abbey Logistics Group
David Pickering, chief executive, Eddie Stobart
James Wroath, chief executive, Wincanton
Thomas Van Mourik, chief executive, Culina Group
Dan Myers, managing director, XPO Logistics
Paul Bennell, managing director, Samworth Brothers Supply Chain
Andrew Malcolm, chief executive, The Malcolm Group
Mark Johnson, national customs and trade control director, Kuehne+Nagel
Andrew Howard, managing director, P C Howard
Kate Lester, chief executive, Diamond Logistics Group
Lesley O’Brien, director, Freightlink Europe
Ian Wright CBE, chief executive, Food and Drink Federation
Richard Harrow, chief executive, British Frozen Food Federation
James Bielby, chief executive, Federation of Wholesale Distributors
Shane Brennan, chief executive, Cold Chain Federation
Emma McClarkin, chief executive British Beer and Pub Association
Nick Allen, chief executive, British Meat Producers Association
Angus Blundell, marketing director, Certas Energy UK
Mark Garner, marketing director, SNAP
James Anthony French, managing director, Road to Logistics


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