Change needed in food supply chain to counter driver shortages

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Supply chain operators need to prepare for the worst with the HGV driver shortage, warns Scala
Supply chain operators need to prepare for the worst with the HGV driver shortage, warns Scala

Related tags Supply chain

Food and drink firms need to reassess and optimise their supply chains in the face of the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortage, urged supply chain consultancy Scala.

Executive director Rob Wright warned that the crisis was only going to get worse before it got better, made even worse by global need to reduce carbon emissions.

The fourth quarter 2021 (Q4) will still be challenging for the food and drink supply chain even if the driver shortage is resolved in the short term, Wright warned. This was thanks to extra demand, plus the shortage of vehicles and trailers, at a time companies usually increase their fleets by 25%.


He called for greater collaboration throughout the supply chain to optimise UK transport, reducing the demand on drivers and minimising trucks and carbon emissions.

“It is vital that retailers lead greater vertical collaboration between manufacturers, their customers and suppliers,”​ Wright added.

“Companies should be talking to their customers and suppliers about how transport can be optimised to protect service and reduce truck and driver journeys. Now is the time to review delivery frequency and order size, unlock backhaul opportunities and remove empty trucks from UK roads.”

One way of removing unneeded trucks from roads included the use of double deck trailers – which provide two levels of storage capacity – to significantly increasing the number of pallets that can be carried in each shipment.

Sharing resources

“As well as vertical collaboration, businesses should also look at the more challenging horizontal collaboration in which companies can work together across the category by sharing trucks and resources,”​ Wright continued.

“We have found it is often the case that a company’s best collaborative partner is perhaps its competitor, as they face the same challenges, share the same customers and often the same suppliers.”

Supply chain and logistics specialist Perishable Movements (PML) agreed that urgent action needed to be taken, but they were not going to rely on the Government to take steps to address the issue.

A PML spokesman said: “We are already working on specific plans to provide drivers - whose pivotal role in maintaining the supply of food and other critical supplies during the pandemic has largely gone unnoticed - with the practical support which we believe they are naturally entitled to.

“PML has always put driver safety and welfare at the top of its agenda. We will be sharing news of our various planned initiatives in the very near future.”

Meanwhile, cargo specialist Perishable Movements has invested £3.5m in a new satellite operation at Lympne Distribution Park, Hythe,​ creating more than 30 new jobs.

Related topics Supply Chain COVID-19

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