One of the main causes of many of these problems is simple. There is a critical scarcity of lorry drivers to drive HGVs transporting petrol to the pumps and food to our supermarkets, as well as employees to tend to the fields and select and pack produce in factories.

To list a few of the current challenges exacerbated by the scarcity of lorry drivers:

  • There is panic at the gas stations due to a shortage of fuel.
  • There are food shortages on supermarket shelves.
  • Energy prices are rapidly rising, causing smaller energy businesses to go bankrupt.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables are decomposing in farmer's fields all around the country.
  • Fertiliser plant closures are having a negative impact on the food industry.
  • Retailers are warning of a possible shortage of Christmas trees and higher pricing this year (due to labour and supply chain issues; around one tenth of real Christmas trees sold in the UK are imported).

Food grade CO2 is utilised in hundreds of items, therefore there are shortages in the UK of:

  • Packaged meats, such as poultry and pork
  • Packaged fresh foods and baked goods
  • Packaged baby foods.
  • Crisps
  • Pet food.
  • Beer and wine.
  • Soft drinks and carbonated water.

Despite more fuel deliveries, British petrol stations are still experiencing unprecedented demand, according to the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which has been steadily increasing over recent years.

What is the source of the forecourt crisis?

Whilst there is partly a shortage in petrol around the world, the main issue is a shortage of HGV drivers, which is wreaking havoc on supply lines across the country.

What is the extent of the lorry driver shortage?

According to the sector, there is a 100,000-strong shortage of lorry drivers, owing in part to Covid and in part to Brexit. Whilst simultaneously Covid-caution left a backlog of 40,000 people waiting to take their HGV tests which we’re all postponed last year.

Which parts of Britain are most affected?

Some stations, particularly those in London and the south-east of England, are facing delays, according to Gordon Balmer, executive director of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA).

What is the state of the industry?

In an effort to distribute resources equitably, BP said it was decreasing delivery to around 90% of its stations. People should not panic-buy, but drivers should maintain their tanks at least a quarter full in case they need to go to another station to fill up, according to the PRA.

How long might the driver shortage last?

Even with efforts to intensify HGV testing with test facilities available on weekends, Logistics UK has stated that the shortage will not be resolved until spring next year, raising concerns about Christmas food, trees and turkey shortages.

What are the alternative solutions?

For months, the freight and logistics industry has pleaded with the government to implement a temporary immigration waiver for drivers, not just in Europe but globally, to assist and ease the shortfall. There are eight separate short-term work visa options for various sectors ranging from farming to sports and religious staff, according to Logistics UK, which represents freight owners.

The government, on the other hand, has dismissed their demands, claiming that compensating and educating British truck drivers is the solution. According to industry statistics, there has been a driver shortage in the industry for a decade as workers seek more appealing employment. Because of the lack of specialised facilities such as bathrooms, showers and canteens, driving in the UK is considered as even less appealing than driving anywhere else in the world. Additionally, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering bringing in army drivers to help with the country's supply chain crisis.

Trident Worldwide CEO, Tim Fawkes lended his voice to the conversation by saying. “Drivers wages and conditions need to be improved to ensure that it is seen as a desirable career with prospects. There is also a shortage of warehouse operators as a result of the same issues. This means that when a driver arrives at a DC to offload he is met with long delays, causing loss of productive time, further compounding the driver problem.

We are used to a world where large businesses and retailers hold all the power, they procure services like they do commodities and the suppliers ultimately cave in and give them what they want. This new paradigm will now force change. Retailers will pay higher rates to get goods delivered and they need to ensure that vehicles are not held up and operating inefficiently, working in true partnership”.

According to Fawkes the industry needs greater regulation to protect the SME haulier. Where is the Road Haulage Association (RHA) in all of this, what are they doing to protect their members and the 300,000 drivers who are on the receiving end of large corporate muscle?

Resources:

https://www.just-food.com/features/uk-supply-chain-crisis-the-longer-term-options-for-the-food-sector/ https://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2021/sep/30/supply-chain-crisis-undermining-recovery-stagflation-fears-petrol-queues-uk-us-eurozone-business-live https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/sep/24/what-is-causing-the-uk-crisis-in-petrol-supplies https://news.sky.com/story/energy-crisis-is-britain-running-on-empty-heres-what-were-short-of-and-the-industries-under-threat-12415007 https://www.news24.com/fin24/economy/world/uk-fuel-crisis-emergency-steps-planned-as-panic-spreads-20210927