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FWD: Food crisis fears in shortage of HGV drivers

Friday 16th July 2021

MIRRORING the national trend of a shortage of HGV drivers, local hauliers are experiencing severe difficulties delivering to customers.

This shortage of truckers is now critical according to the Federation of Wholesale Distribution (FWD), threatening food supplies.

The shortage of drivers is blamed partly by Brexit and partly by the pandemic.

Since January 1, EU citizens are included in a new immigration system for the UK which gives priority to high-skilled roles. HGV drivers are not eligible for the visa scheme.

Ashford- based food delivery service Brakes said: “We’re facing an unprecedented lack of driving capacity resulting from EU citizens who left the UK during the pandemic, coupled with the huge surge in demand since hospitality re-opened. This has placed immense pressure on all parts of the food supply chain.”

Maz Michaelas, manager of The Square Fish restaurant, Lenham, said: “It’s my biggest worry right now. I’ve been using Brakes catering suppliers for 26 years, but they can’t guarantee delivery dates now.”

A spokesman from Lenham Storage, with a 260 truck fleet, said: “It’s a big problem right now and we are no different from any other haulage contractor. There just aren’t enough drivers.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said there were 60,000 drivers from the EU working in the UK pre-Brexit.

RHA added 30,000 HGV driving tests were lost last year because of COVID-19 adding to the skills’ shortage.

Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, has said almost 30% of its member firms were looking for drivers.

The retail and fast-food sectors have not issued such dire warnings yet, but some have reported gaps appearing in supplies.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is considering relaxing restrictions on drivers’ working hours and increasing capacity for HGV driving tests and training to help bring in new local drivers.