A senior executive at one of the UK’s largest logistics companies has warned that supply chains are facing six to 12 months of pressure due to the current shortage of lorry drivers.
Ian Keilty, chief operating officer at FTSE firm Wincanton, said that both Black Friday and Christmas shopping could be hampered by the shortfall.
Currently, there is a shortfall of around 60,000 HGV drivers as a result of both Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.
The recent “pingdemic” of people being forced to isolate after being alerted by the NHS Covid-19 app has poured pressure on supply chains, leaving supermarkets and other shops with empty shelves.
In comments reported by the Telegraph, Keilty said: “We have seen a massive step up in home deliveries, taking things into people’s houses. The Black Friday boom and the runup to Christmas is likely to be hugely challenging.
“Supply chains tend to take a while to spring back into the shape we are used to when everybody can get everything whenever they want it.
“Even that magical date in August [when double-vaccinated adults no longer need to isolate when pinged] isn’t the cure-all. We have got six to 12 months of challenge.”
Last week the government announced that key food industry workers would be exempt from isolation in a bid to tackle the problem, but Keilty warned that this would not be enough.
“We really need a broader exemption around the driver population. It is a networked operation – I have drivers who might move DIY products in the morning, but in the afternoon they might be moving product into a supermarket supply chain,” he said.
“It is not hugely helpful to have a very restrictive set of exemptions in terms of getting the UK moving and keeping it fed.”
And CBI chief economist Rain Newton Smith said that regardless of the current situation the country needed more drivers.
As well as the exemption for food industry workers, the government has also tried to relieve pressure on the HGV sector by easing qualification requirements and extending working hours allowances on a temporary basis.