Lorry driver shortages, empty shelves and Brexit

empty shelves
A shortage of lorry drivers leading to empty shelves

Retailers right across the country are struggling to find enough lorry drivers to ensure that they have enough stock in the coming months and in particular for the festive season.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has estimated that there is a current shortfall of around 100,000 drivers. If anything this is set to become worse.

Why is there a driver shortage?

There are a number of factors that have led to this nationwide shortage of lorry drivers.

Firstly, the workforce tends to be made up of older drivers. Naturally this will lead to a number retiring and therefore leaving gaps. Recruitment is not necessarily easy.

Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy and public affairs at the RHA said:

“We’re looking at a serious problem at Christmas,”

He goes on to explain that around 2,000 drivers are leaving each week and they are being replaced by only 1,000.

The maths is easy.

Secondly, the working conditions are not particularly good. Workers have cited issues like not enough good value, safe places to stop along their travel routes as reasons for leaving the profession. This will also cause recruitment problems.

It’s also expensive to train a driver. It works out as a cost of £3,500. In addition, recent  tax and National Insurance rules have not helped.

And then there is Brexit.

Thousands of European drivers left the industry after the Brexit vote and in the ensuing years.

The effect

The lorry driver shortage is very likely to cause serious problems at Christmas, right across different types of shops including groceries, toys, clothes, gifts…leading to more empty shelves.

Empty shelves in Tynemouth

And it’s not only the physical stores. It will affect online shopping too.

Alex Hersham, CEO of logistics firm Zencargo says:

“The shortage of HGV drivers is likely going to lead to delays for Christmas shoppers purchasing items online, [and] they may struggle to find what they need in-store.”

He predicts “weeks of delay” for shoppers.

Despite government plans to train more drivers, some of which have been criticised on safety grounds, Alex explains that it would take months for a positive effect to be seen.

Read more by Yvonne Wancke

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