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Food Shortage Fears Amid HGV Driver Recruitment Crisis

The INews website reports that supermarkets are already running short of fresh produce on their shelves as the HGV driver recruitment crisis starts to bite. It is feared that the logistics industry has 65,000 unfilled driver roles, which is precipitating a rise in the price of fresh produce and other goods in UK shops.

Alarmingly, the report states that piles of fresh food such as fruit, vegetables, milk, and cheese are being dumped in landfill because they cannot be transported to supermarkets before the sell-by dates. It warns that the crisis is escalating, with a branch of Budgens in Ipswich putting up notices in an effort to protect staff from irate customers.

The shortage of drivers has been exacerbated by a perfect storm of the pandemic, Brexit, IR35 tax changes, and a backlog of driver training and tests due to the lockdown.

Tim O’Malley, the managing director of Nationwide Produce, said: “It’s an escalating crisis… deliveries are not going to supermarkets. Produce is prepared, packed, ready to go, and not being delivered. Hundreds of loads of produce a day are being “rolled” – their delivery to stores being delayed by a day or more.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is warning of a worsening situation when the customs grace period ends in October, and predicts steep price rises as demand outweighs supply for essential produce such as meat, pasta, and dairy products.

Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy at the RHA, said that haulage companies are being forced to increase driver salaries, and this extra cost will eventually be passed onto the consumer.

The association is currently in talks with the UK government, to put pressure on for changes such as adding HGV drivers to the shortage occupation list, the creation of seasonal visas for HGV drivers, and the prioritising of testing and apprenticeships for potential drivers.

 

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