HGV driver shortage could threaten food supply – FWD

The shortage of HGV delivery drivers is now critical and could threaten food supply in some areas, says FWD.

Food wholesalers are experiencing severe difficulties delivering to convenience stores, pubs, restaurants and care homes, so FWD has asked the government for a temporary extension of drivers’ hours – as was put in place when supermarkets were facing shortages last year.

The suggestion is for the extension to be limited to multi-drop deliveries to remote communities, or where there is a specific threat to food supply.

“The driver shortage has reached crisis point for some of our members and we believe it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases,” said FWD Chief Executive James Bielby.

“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.

They have done all they can to keep their customers stocked, including raising drivers’ wages and even sending depot staff out in non-HGV vehicles to fulfil smaller orders. Some have had to turn down business in order to fulfil orders to regular customers.”

FWD is meeting Ministers this week to discuss options, which include having army drivers on standby to ensure food distribution is not interrupted.

Without some form of support to remedy the issue, the concern is that the entire supply chain could falter.

“Wholesalers have tried engaging agencies but these are also short of drivers,” continued Bielby. “The product manufacturers who supply into the wholesale channel have similar issues with distribution and our members are reporting particular difficulties getting hold of soft drinks, beer, and chilled products like cream, cheese, yoghurt and meats.

“We’ve asked the government to re-instate the temporary extension of drivers’ hours (from 9 to 11) which was in place last year but ended recently. Other proposals we are putting forward include ending furlough for HGV drivers, temporarily waiving requirements for medical certs and CPC for those which have run out, and using army drivers to deliver to vulnerable communities.”

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