The shortage of about 65,000 trained drivers is affecting the speed and cost of deliveries across the country, one driving trade body has said.
According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), the HGV driver shortage has now reached “catastrophic proportions”.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “The upturn in the economy since Covid-19 is increasing demand across supply chains and the reopening of non-essential retail outlets and parts of the hospitality sector is making the situation even worse."
He added: “The pandemic also resulted in the loss of about 12 months of driver training and testing. The long-term ineffectiveness of apprenticeships for lorry drivers and the general hostility from authorities and Government is also unhelpful for recruiting and retraining drivers.”
This means freight rates are rising to an “unsustainable level” and costs will have to be passed on to consumers, the RHA added.
The association has put together a 12-point plan to tackle the driver shortage, which includes better promotion of the job and sector, apprenticeship funding gap, continued priority driving tests for HGV drivers and included drivers on the Government’s skilled worker shortage occupation list.
“We need the Government to act and address the driver shortage for the industry and the drivers," Burnett said.
“While we come the increase in HGV apprenticeship funding to £7,000, this barely scratches the surface of the problem.”
When it comes to beer deliveries to pubs, The Morning Advertiser (MA) understands Greene King is using standard operating procedures where pubs that stock its beer are only taking one delivery a week in a designated time period (such as 48 hours in advance).
The MA has also learnt Heineken has not had to put a cap on the number of orders customers can make due to the delivery driver shortage.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls described the delivery driver shortage as a "growing concern" and called for a reform of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS or furlough) to help tackle recruitment issues.
She said: "Driver shortages are increasingly impacting supply chains across the country, so it’s a growing concern. Much like hospitality’s acute shortage of chefs, we can see that economic challenges posed by the pandemic are far from over.
"The labour market has been disrupted and unsettled by the events of the past year and labour shortages appear to be a perennial problem, aggravated further by many foreign workers not returning to the UK, either because of travel restrictions or their ability to resume work in the UK.
“The Government needs to urgently look at travel constraints, which are impacting foreign workers from returning as well as the shortage occupations list.
"Additionally furlough need to be reformed, while importantly protecting jobs of workers that are part of the quarter of hospitality venues that are still closed, loopholes such as being able to take up a second job whilst part of the CJRS is preventing the labour market from working efficiently and heightening the problem of labour shortages.
"There is an acute need for measures to support our supply chains – ours is a fragile ecosystem and the worker shortage across food supply chain, from farm to fork, desperately requires steps to avoid a challenging problem from becoming a more widely felt crisis.”