Britain could be facing empty supermarket shelves this summer and an “unimaginable” collapse of supply chains due to a shortage of more than 100,000 lorry drivers, industry bosses have warned.
In a letter to Boris Johnson logistics chiefs called on the prime minister to personally intervene to allow access to European labour by introducing temporary worker visas for HGV drivers and adding them to a “shortage occupation list”.
“Supermarkets are already reporting that they are not receiving their expected food stocks and, as a result, there is considerable wastage,” said Richard Burnett, the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, which coordinated the letter.
A government spokesperson said the industry should look to hire local workers instead due to the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system.
The haulage industry was one of the most vocal sectors in the run-up to Britain’s departure from the EU, warning that lorry drivers would not want to come to the UK if checks and friction increased at the border.
The problem has been compounded by the pandemic after many EU drivers returned to their home countries.
The letter warned government intervention was the only way to avoid “critical supply chains failing at an unprecedented and unimaginable level”.
It said the problem would be exacerbated by the upcoming summer holidays, the continued easing of lockdown measures and spikes in demand for food and drink due to hot weather and major sporting events such as the Euros.
The government spokesperson said progress had been made in hiring and training, adding: “Our new points-based immigration system makes clear employers should focus on investing in our domestic workforce, especially those needing to find new employment, rather than relying on labour from abroad.”
The letter was signed by a host of chief executives of haulage groups including Eddie Stobart and Wincanton as well as the heads of industry groups such as the Food and Drink Federation and the British Beer and Pub Association.