'Action must be taken' as lorry driver shortage causes food to go to waste

The current shortage of hauliers could have a real impact on the region's farmers and growers, the National Farmers' Union has warned.

A shortage of hauliers is affecting businesses across the UK
A shortage of hauliers is affecting businesses across the UK

Edward Garratt, Shropshire NFU county adviser, said the union has heard reports of deliveries being cancelled or delayed resulting in British products such as milk and fruit potentially going to waste.

It comes after the boss of the UK's biggest dairy supplier Arla said supermarkets could face a "summer of disruption" to milk deliveries if the Government does not act to address a shortage of lorry drivers.

Arla, which supplies milk to about 2,400 stores each day in the UK, has said it was unable to deliver to 600 stores last Saturday due to dwindling driver numbers.

Mr Garratt said: “The shortage of hauliers could have a real impact on Shropshire farmers and growers and we are monitoring it very closely indeed speaking with the Government and trade.

“We have heard reports of deliveries being cancelled or delayed resulting in high quality British fruit, salad, milk and other products potentially going to waste.

“This is becoming an increasingly pressing issue and action needs to be taken now.

“This could include streamlining driver test processes and encouraging trained drivers who have recently left the profession to return, backed up by a long term strategy to attractive to new entrants into the profession.”

Edward Garratt, Shropshire NFU county adviser

Ash Amirahmadi, managing director of Arla Foods UK, which has a packing plant in Oswestry and a cheese storage site in Whitchurch, said the company has struggled to deliver to 10 pert cent of stores on a more regular basis in recent weeks.

He said: "I think when you are not able to supply 10 per cent of the stores which are expecting to get milk every day, I think that's quite worrying for a customer walking into a store and not being able to have milk so we are taking it very seriously. We are trying to avoid a summer of disruption.

"We are experiencing the problem getting worse and that's why our assessment is that we are in a driver shortage crisis and therefore we are asking for the industry and Government to work together to recognise we are in a crisis and address the issue."

Arla said its third-party hauliers have raised wages to entice drivers while it has also offered a £2,000 signing-on bonus.

Tesco, the UK's largest grocer, announced a £1,000 golden hello for new drivers who sign up before September to help address its shortages.

However, Mr Amirahmadi said there also needed to be a "structural solution" from Government, including improvements to testing and temporary visa changes, to resolve the shortage in the short-term.

"Going into the summer with lots more holidays coming up there is a short-term crisis that we need to make sure we don't have food shortages in the summer," he said.

"There is a backlog of tests for HGV drivers – we predict about 30,000 drivers are waiting to be tested.

"We want the Government to work with us to accelerate that and secondly we believe that driving should be recognised as a skilled shortage and therefore they should open up temporary visas for the industry to be able to bring European drivers back into the country."

Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a consultation to ease driver qualification requirements as part of a package of measures designed to help the issue.

He also announced a temporary extension of lorry drivers' working hours from nine to 10 hours a day.

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