Stinging HGV crisis to hit supermarkets

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

A shortage of HGV drivers will affect the food industry
A shortage of HGV drivers will affect the food industry

Related tags: Large goods vehicle, Asda

Food firms are set to feel the sting of the worsening road haulage crisis, as industry leaders call for more action to stem the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortage.

In December, supermarkets denied claims that a shortage of HGV drivers​ could cripple the food and drink industry.

Last night (January 12), however, Freight Transport Association (FTA) membership and policy md James Hookham highlighted the severity of the problem.

“The driver shortage wasn’t just for Christmas … it will be with us for far longer than that,” ​he said.

Companies that relied on haulage firms would face the consequences of a sector that was failing to attract and recruit enough people to professional driving, he added.

‘Deep-seated problems’

“We need to up our game in recruitment practices and start addressing some deep-seated problems in the industry.

“We also need to ensure the government and other agencies are on our side and that we make best use of the support and funding that is already available.”

In December, a source close to the food industry told FoodManufacture.co.uk that supermarkets would be hit hard by the issue, despite denying claims.

“The retailers won’t say how big the issue is, especially right before Christmas,” ​said the source, who did not want to be named.

“They don’t want anyone to think that there is an issue, but it is known to be a serious problem in the sector.”

A shortage of drivers was widespread and becoming more severe, said Sally Roberts, skills policy and development manager at the FTA.

“Freight firms believe the issue is going to continue and that includes firms that deliver to the supermarkets,” ​she said.

Vehemently denied

Despite Roberts’ and the source’s claims, Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda vehemently denied they would face problems getting produce to their stores in the future.

Meanwhile, in a bid to find a solution to the problem, the FTA will hold a ‘Solving the Driver Crisis’ industry summit on March 12 at the Ricoh Stadium in Coventry.

The summit will cover five key topics, including:

  • How big is the problem?
  • What were operators’ experiences in the run-up to Christmas?
  • Improving the perceptions of professional driving
  • Reaching out to the labour market and the next generation of drivers
  • Sources of government funding and how to apply

Road haulage associations have already called for additional government support, which includes financial help to raise the £4,000 it costs to train new HGV drivers.

More than 60% of current HGV drivers are aged 55 and only 5% are under 25, according to recent statistics.

Related topics: Supply Chain, Fresh produce, Services

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