I tend to do my shopping at Tesco.
There’s no real loyalty reason. I have a superstore near where I live and being a big shop, it has what I need. Usually.
But, heaven forbid, for the last two weeks I’ve been unable to get fizzy water. Not just my flavour of choice but any fizzy water whatsoever. Barren shelves in the water aisle. What’s occurring?
Well, the UK-wide shortage of lorry drivers – and empty shelves on certain goods due to delivery backlogs – is the result of a perfect storm of events: Brexit, the pandemic, the ‘pingdemic’, and the good old fashioned holiday season.
Those of you who read my ramblings in PES will know that I was (am) about as anti-Brexit as anyone could be. For manufacturing and supply chains of all descriptions across multiple industries, I could see no reason to vote for something that would damage us.
I’m prepared to turn a blind eye to the well-documented political shortcomings of the European Union: for me it was, and still is, all about seamless trade, business and logistics. I’m digressing, but I’ve yet to see one single benefit of leaving the EU.
Back to haulage. The wider problem here is that there’s a shortfall of up to 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK – the result of a number of banana skins materialising in perfect alignment as I’ve already alluded to.
Brexit has added layers of bureaucracy to shipping goods to and from the UK which is dissuading EU-based hauliers from coming here. On top of that, COVID-19 has effected a mass exodus of non-UK labour returning home during the past 18 months or so. But will they come back?
And if that’s not enough, let’s not forget that COVID-19 is still very much alive and well – albeit thwarted significantly by the UK’s highly successful vaccination programme. The Government’s infamous COVID-19 app however is not so successful – triggering highly questionable self-isolation chaos across the country.
The virus has also created a backlog of lorry drivers waiting to pass their HGV licence test due to the closure of test centres under lockdown. This is a multi-faceted problem.
We’ve seen some pretty desperate measures implemented by supermarkets to retain their respective drivers and coax others into their clutches. As I write this Aldi has increased its drivers’ hourly rates and claims it’s the highest payer in the industry. Tesco is offering £1,000 bonuses to HGV drivers joining their ranks before 30th September.
Not surprisingly, the Government has been criticised for not doing enough and not taking the crisis seriously. In response, it has said that it will introduce measures to ease the strain – like planned changes to the HGV licence test that would allow learners to gain direct access to an articulated lorry exam without having to take an intermediate-level test.
Drivers’ permitted working hours has also been increased. Not much help when said drivers are already overworked. Conversely, introducing lorry driver apprenticeships is absolutely a good idea.
Personally, instead of offering cash incentives to lure drivers in, why don’t supermarkets spend that money on better recruitment and training initiatives? We need more drivers; that’s the bottom line.