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Britain could face food shortages due to lorry driver crisis

Stock MarketsJun 26, 2021 06:55AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Lorries queue in at the border control of the Port of Dover in Dover, Britain, January 15, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain could face gaps on supermarket shelves this summer and an "unimaginable" collapse of supply chains after the pandemic and Brexit led to a shortage of more than 100,000 truck drivers, industry leaders have warned.

In a June 23 letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the industry called for his personal intervention to allow access to European labour by introducing temporary worker visas for HGV drivers and adding them to a "shortage occupation list".

A government spokesman said however that with the country's new post-Brexit immigration system, the industry should look to hire local workers instead.

"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 co-ordinated the letter.

Britain's supermarket industry, led by Tesco (OTC:TSCDY), Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons, relies on an army of drivers and warehouse workers to bring fresh produce from the fields of Europe to its shelves.

Britain's logistics industry had been one of the most vocal in the run-up to Britain's departure from the European Union, warning that truck drivers would not want to come to Britain if checks and friction increased at the border.

The pandemic has compounded the problem after many European drivers living in Britain returned to their country of origin.

The letter said intervention from government was now the only way to avert "critical supply chains failing at an unprecedented and unimaginable level".

It said the approaching summer holidays, the continued unlocking of the economy and spikes in demand for food and drink created by hot weather and major sporting events would exacerbate the problem. Christmas preparation would also be hit.

In response a government spokesman said progress had been made in hiring and training.

"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," he said.

The letter was signed by the CEOs of a raft of logistics groups, including Eddie Stobart, Wincanton, XPO Logistics (NYSE:XPO) and KUEHNE + NAGEL, as well as the heads of industry groups including the Food and Drink Federation, British Frozen Food Federation, Cold Chain Federation, British Beer and Pub Association and the British Meat Producers Association.

Britain could face food shortages due to lorry driver crisis
 

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Comments (5)
Benoit Avril
Benoit Avril Jun 26, 2021 1:41PM ET
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Pay them better, you will have plenty of applicants.
Mase Gumbo
Mase Gumbo Jun 26, 2021 1:41PM ET
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i doubt it
Gregory Chi
Gregory Chi Jun 26, 2021 9:37AM ET
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Sound like a recipe for more inflation
Eagle Hunter
Eagle Hunter Jun 26, 2021 8:28AM ET
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It is too labour-intensive and costly to transport goods from the continent of Europe to Britain by road. Britain is better off by importing goods from continental Europe by rail thereby reducing the need for relying on foreign truck drivers and it is good for the environment too.
Benoit Avril
Benoit Avril Jun 26, 2021 8:28AM ET
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Actually the "train" that crosses the channel carries lorries, or lorry containers at best. And I'm pretty sure the service is already saturated. You still have trucks taking the ferry though. But once it's in the country, you still need to dispatch the goods all over Britain and thus, you need lorry drivers.
Sean Rivero Guy
Sean Rivero Guy Jun 26, 2021 8:00AM ET
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more lies from MSM....we all know the deal we are not stupid and you will fail...
Dave Jones
Dave Jones Jun 26, 2021 6:24AM ET
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wow forcing a country to hire it's own citizens and buy it's own produce....I can see how Brexit is a total disaster!
Simon Meszaros
Simon Meszaros Jun 26, 2021 6:24AM ET
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well then explayn why is disaster to hire workforce from abroad.
 
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