Brexit has meant many drivers from Eastern Europe have returned home, while the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a backlog of trainee drivers waiting to take their exams.
This has resulted in a “crisis” in supply chains, which could result in some food items being emptied from supermarket shelves within weeks, according to industry insiders.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, industry leaders called for urgent intervention to allow foreign drivers to return to the country by adding them to the “shortage occupancy” lists.
They write: “We are writing to you urgently asking for your personal intervention to help resolve the significant and rapidly deteriorating shortage of heavy truck drivers.
“Before the pandemic, we estimated a shortage at over 60,000. At that time, UK road transport companies employed around 600,000 heavy truck drivers, including 60,000 from EU Member States who resided and worked in the Kingdom. -United.
“Several factors have exacerbated the shortage which is now at the point of crisis (over 100,000) and critical supply chains are failing. “
The letter, which was signed by industry groups such as the Food and Drink Federation, the British Frozen Food Federation, the Cold Chain Federation, the British Beer and Pub Association and the British Meat Producers Association and CEOs of transport companies including Eddie Stobart, Wincanton, XPO Logistics and KUEHNE + NAGEL, also warns stores across the country could be affected as the industry begins to head into Christmas from late summer.
The letter adds: “We strongly believe that Prime Minister / Cabinet intervention is the only way to avoid the failure of critical supply chains to an unprecedented and unimaginable level.
“Supermarkets are already reporting that they are not receiving their expected food stocks and as a result there is considerable waste. “
The letter also cites the closing of the IR35 tax loophole which requires agencies to pay enough to cover national insurance and self-employed driver taxes.
A government spokesperson said he had met with industry figures to discuss the issue.
They said: “Most solutions will likely be commercial and internal to the industry, with progress already being made in key areas such as testing and hiring, and a strong focus on improving wages, working conditions. of work and diversity.
“Our new points-based immigration system makes it clear that employers should focus on investing in our national workforce, especially those who need to find new jobs, rather than depending on the foreign labor. “