Last month (June), The Morning Advertiser reported a national lack of HGV drivers due to the coronavirus pandemic was hit further by the reopening of shops and the hospitality sector, causing concerns about costs.
The shortage of about 65,000 trained drivers is affecting the speed and cost of deliveries across the country, one driving trade body said.
According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), the HGV driver shortage has now reached “catastrophic proportions”.
The Department for Transport has now introduced a temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the retained EU drivers’ hours rule in England, Scotland and Wales due to the pressures on local and national supply chains.
The relaxation of the rules applies from one minute past midnight on 12 July 2021 until one minute to midnight on 8 August 2021.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “We oppose wholesale extensions to drivers’ hours as we believe they can be counter-productive by making the job less attractive.
“Loading more hours on to drivers that are already exhausted is not the answer – the problem needs more than just a sticking plaster.
“Ministers should be mindful road safety is the reason HGV drivers’ hours are limited. Relaxing them should only be used as a last resort to resolve short-term issues that cannot be addressed in other ways.
“We have offered ministers a range of short, mid, and long-term solutions in our 12-point plan to tackle the crisis, including better support for training and apprenticeships, improved on-road facilities and temporary visas for overseas drivers.”
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said the extended hours just “papered over the cracks” and called on the Government for further action.
However, the trade association did state there was plenty of beer to serve the on-trade and being delivered to pubs.
More action urgently needed
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “There is still plenty of beer to go around, but more action is urgently needed from the Government to rectify this issue both immediately and in the medium term.
“Staff self-isolating from NHS Test & Trace pings despite testing negative for Covid continues to be an issue for our sector, resulting in whole pubs having to close as staff are forced to isolate.
“Double vaccination exemptions from 16 August isn’t a solution for our sector.
“Some 43% of pubs staff are aged 18 to 25, meaning they are at the back of the queue for vaccines and will not have their second jab until September.
“We urge the Government to work with us on this too, to find a sensible solution that includes our young people and still ensures staff and customer safety.”