‘Just days left to avoid Christmas shortages’, retailers warn as HGV driver shortage goes on

Sign up to FREE email alerts from BusinessLive – East – round-up of the week’s most important stories every ThursdayInvalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.SubscribeWe use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time.More infoThank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice

Retail groups are warning the Government that it has just days to save Christmas from “significant disruption” caused by the ongoing HGV driver shortage.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said on Friday that unless progress could be made in the next 10 days, disruption to festive preparations will be “inevitable”.

Also on Friday, BP, Esso and Tesco petrol forecourts were impacted by challenges getting petrol deliveries amid panic buying and some chaotic scenes.

READ MORE: Shortlist announced for £240m HS2 civils contract

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, said: “HGV drivers are the glue which hold our supply chains together.

“Without them, we are unable to move goods from farms to warehouses to shops.

“Currently, the UK faces a shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers and it is consumers who ultimately suffer the consequences.

“Unless a solution can be found in the next 10 days, it is inevitable that we will see significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps denied that Brexit was to blame for the UK’s recent shortage of lorry drivers, arguing the Government could in fact react more quickly as a result.

He said: “Not only are there very large and even larger shortages in other EU countries like Poland and Germany, which clearly can’t be to do with Brexit, but actually because of Brexit I’ve been able to change the law and alter the way our driving tests operate in a way I could not have done if we were still part of the EU.

Read More Related Articles North East logistics firm aims to tackle HGV driver shortage with college link-up Read More Related Articles HGV crisis to hit In The Style’s profits as online demand soars

“So, Brexit actually has provided part of the solution of giving more slots available for HGV (heavy goods vehicle) tests and there are a lot more, twice as many, tests available now than before the pandemic, a large proportion of those we’ve only been able to do because we are no longer in the EU.”

BP said around 20 of its 1,200 petrol forecourts were closed due to a lack of available fuel, with between 50 and 100 sites seeing the loss of at least one grade of fuel.

Get business news direct to your inbox

There’s no better time to stay up to date with economic and business news from your region. By signing up for our daily newsletters, email breaking news alerts and weekly round-ups from all the major sectors, you get our journalism direct by email. To sign up, find out more and see all of our newsletters, follow the link here

Esso owner ExxonMobil said a “small number” of Tesco refilling stations have also been impacted.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tried to dissuade motorists from panic buying, saying motorists should “carry on as normal”.

On the BBC’s Today programme, he said: “I’ll move heaven and earth to do anything that’s required to make sure that lorries carry on moving our goods and services and petrol around the country.”

At a meeting a week ago, BP reportedly told the Government that the company was struggling to get fuel to its forecourts.

Its head of UK retail Hanna Hofer described the situation as “bad, very bad”, according to a report by ITV News.

BP had “two-thirds of normal forecourt stock levels required for smooth operations”, she said, adding that the level is “declining rapidly”.

On Thursday, Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association trade body said that the Government had allowed the driver shortage to get “gradually worse” in recent months.

“We have got a shortage of 100,000 (drivers),” he told BBC’s Newsnight.

“When you think that everything we get in Britain comes on the back of a lorry, whether it’s fuel or food or clothes or whatever it is, at some point, if there are no drivers to drive those trucks, the trucks aren’t moving and we’re not getting our stuff.”

He added: “I don’t think we are talking about absolutely no fuel or food or anything like that, people shouldn’t panic buy food or fuel or anything else, that’s not what this is about.

“This is about stock outs, it’s about shortages, it’s about a normal supply chain being disrupted.”

Read More Related Articles Free HGV training provider ‘inundated’ with applications amid driver shortage Read More Related Articles CO2 crisis: Seven Brothers Brewing says costs will increase as Government bails out CF Industries