Food firm in ‘drastic’ action amid driver shortage

Country Range may be a group of 12 wholesalers supplying food and non-food items to colleges , care homes, hotels, restaurants and little shops.

Ms Rose said the shortage of drivers had affected both the availability of products from manufacturers to its warehouses and also from its warehouses to its customers.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Rose said Country Range was “taking drastic action like buying smaller delivery vehicles to form sure that we do not need to have people with specific HGV licences to drive them”.

There was “going to be increased pressure as schools reopen, people still holiday within the UK, people return back to their offices, so staff feeding may reopen again, therefore the issue goes to urge worse and that we would really like government intervention”, she added.

One short-term fix the govt could take would be to a short lived visa scheme “to encourage EU workers to return back”, she said.

But she wants the govt to offer support for people with training and apprenticeships within the long run “because this is often not a fast fix, it is a long-term issue”.

Ms Rose also said: “There’s lot of drivers who are ready to drive but can’t continue the road at the instant because they couldn’t take their tests or refresher and training through the last year due to Covid, so there’s potential to release tons more drivers. There might be some increased resource therein area also which would help.”

Van with doors open
On Wednesday, the govt said there was a “highly resilient” food supply chain and it had been taking measures to tackle the driving force shortage.

Labour’s shadow minister for business and consumers, Seema Malhotra, said: “The chaos hitting supply chains is of the Conservatives’ making. Their failure to stay their promise to chop bureaucratic procedure for businesses, which are battling more paperwork and better costs, combined with worker shortages, has created an ideal storm.”

What have the supermarkets said?

  • Sainsbury’s said “availability in some product categories may vary but alternatives are available and stores still receive deliveries daily”.
  • Morrisons said it had been working with suppliers to minimise shortages. It said it had had “contingency plans around Brexit in situ for variety of years”. It added it had been “less concerned” about some fresh foods because it produced them itself. However, it said the “challenges” had been exacerbated by summer holidays meaning fewer drivers were available. “But there’s no short-term fix for the haulage industry with drivers and vacancies increasing nationally.”
  • Waitrose said it had been “working through an equivalent challenges that each one supermarkets face right now”. It added it had been focussing on “maintaining the bet possible range of products”.
  • Iceland Foods, said: “We are currently facing a huge shortage of HGV drivers within the UK which is impacting the food supply chain on a day to day . We… have already seen deliveries to our stores cancelled for the primary time since the pandemic began, and this is often solely thanks to the HGV driver shortage.”
  • The Co-op said: “Like many retailers, we are impacted by some patchy disruption to our deliveries, logistics and store operations but we are working closely with our suppliers to urge re-stocked quickly.”
  • Tesco said “there could also be some shortages”, but people shouldn’t “over-dramatise” and panic-buy. “It’s very easy to form a drama out of a modest crisis.”
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    The motor industry has already reported that van sales have hit near record levels in 2021 as a results of a boom in home deliveries and therefore the economy reopening.

Ms Rose admitted that a firm like Country Range buying more small delivery vans would increase the amount of vehicles on the roads. “More vehicles and more staff required to try to to that, it isn’t a perfect scenario but it’s something that we’re trying to try to to to still supply our customers.”

She said steps were needed so as to encourage people to require up driving jobs. “We got to make this a beautiful profession and a recognised profession, not just with food service but within the entire of the united kingdom .

“The average age of the drivers is over 55 – there’s not tons of latest blood coming into the industry because it takes time and money to coach and other people don’t necessarily have that.”

‘A perfect storm’
Staff shortages within the food industry are extending beyond drivers.

Bolton-based Greenhalgh’s Craft Bakery features a chain of outlets in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, and delivers wholesale nationally.

Six members of the firm’s management team are taking turns to try to to shifts driving the delivery vans.

Boss David Smart told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s an enormous of an ideal storm really. We are in need of drivers but it is not just drivers, we’re actually in need of quite few people throughout the business from bakers to bakery operatives to buy colleagues to drivers to office .

“It’s the August legal holiday , everybody wants to travel everywhere and since we’re a food industry we attempt to supply all those areas. We’re extremely busy. However, we are very, very busy with too few hands.”

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