Do the Brits need to get used to empty supermarket shelves? For gummy bear fans, the prospects aren’t looking great. Confectionary giant, Haribo, has warned that supply bottlenecks are to be expected in Great Britain: The cause: a shortfall of around 100,000 truck drivers on Britain’s roads. Haribo CEO, Ken Murphy, did however emphasise that product availability will continue to be high. Nevertheless, the logistics sector is on high alert. Numerous companies are reporting difficulties in keeping their supply chains moving. Farmers, slaughterhouses and food producers are being hit hardest – as nobody is able to collect their goods – with far-reaching consequences. Super markets, retailers and welfare organisations warn of supply bottlenecks. As such, it was not possible for Danone Water brands such as Volvic and Evian to reach UK shores. TheTesco supermarket chain has concerns that the shortfall in drivers will mean that fresh produce is hitting the shelves too late. Even schools are becoming accustom to produce missing from their canteens - and are being advised to purchase pasta and other produce with a long shelf life.
In an urgent letter, Richard Burnett, CEO of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) as well as 20 logistics companies and associations asked the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to personally intervene. Burnett urged the British PM to take action in order "to avert critical supply chains failing at an unprecedented and unimaginable level". There are two reasons in particular to blame for the shortfall in drivers in the sector: Brexit and the corona pandemic. But even before the pandemic struck, there was already a high number of truck driver vacancies. As a result of the pandemic, vast numbers of drivers headed back to their home countries, predominantly in Eastern Europe. Owing to travel restrictions and complex visa rules, many haven’t ventured back to Britain as yet. On top of this, the decision to leave the EU and the associated uncertainty regarding their own legal status forced many drivers to leave Britain. And as yet, they haven’t decided to return. And they are not expected to return either, according to the letter.
Along with logistics companies and associations, Burnett called for access to be eased for workers from the EU and the European Economic Area – by introducing a temporary worker visa for truck drivers and adding this job to the job shortage list, among other measures. The letter explained: "This will allow UK-registered transport operators to access a workforce that can live and work in the UK more easily and encourage those who have left to return”. In doing so, logistics companies also stress that this is only a temporary measure. “We must work collectively to achieve a sustainable way of recruiting and training a homegrown workforce so that our reliance on foreign labour dissipates over time." What’s more, the companies and association representatives also point out that the average age of a truck driver in Great Britain is 55 years old. Many of the drivers have retired or are looking for less demanding roles. As fewer professional driving tests could take place over the past year due to the pandemic, only 15,000 people were able to successfully pass their test rather than 40,000 in the previous year.
The British Home Office explained the sector should utilise the local workforce. With this in mind, a series of initiatives has been taken in order to recruit more truck drivers from Great Britain. However, this has not solved the issue in the short term for the logistics sector. The British job market is virtually empty. Following a report from “Bloomberg” press agency, only 110 truck drivers are currently looking for work.
The shortage of truck drivers is certainly more bad news in such unprecedented times. In addition to the impact of Brexit and the corona pandemic, a shortage in containers, problems in shipping at Chinese ports and shortages in materials are also taking their toll on supply chains. The Herchenbach Supply Chain Institute has discovered how companies are increasing resilience in their supply chain in its latest study. In a survey with experts from the logistics sector, handling instructions were developed to protect companies against disruptions in the supply chain. Find out more and download the study free of charge here: lp.herchenbach-industrial.com/en/logistics-study-expect-the-unexpected.