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Truck driver shortage threatens Christmas deliveries

26 November 2014

Families should do their Christmas shopping now because a shortage of lorry drivers has raised fears that there could be empty shelves in the shops, the Transport Secretary said this week.

In an interview, Patrick McLoughlin said he ‘hopes and thinks’ there will be no problems in the next six weeks, before adding: ‘But I’d advise everybody to get their shopping done.’

Lorry drivers have warning of an oncoming 'crisis', with the threat of Christmas 'being put on hold' ahead of the busiest festive period in terms of spending since the banking crisis.

Deliveries of presents bought online from firms such as Amazon could also be affected, hauliers warn, whilst Christmas meals could be affected because perishable vegetables could be delayed.

The EU's new training rules mean the logistics industry is 60,000 drivers short, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.  The Freight Transport Association (FTA) claims 20,000 drivers have either taken early retirement or moved to different jobs since Driver CPC became mandatory in September.

Julian Thompson, managing direction at logistics recruitment company 24-7 Staffing, said: 'It's a crisis.  Christmas could be put on hold'.  Agencies that provide extra drivers during the pre-Christmas peak say they have no more to spare.  Meanwhile, Andrew Starkey of IMRG which represents online retailers said there were signs that less-experienced drivers were being used to meet the shortfall.

In an interview with the ConservativeHome website, Mr McLoughlin admitted there was a shortage of lorry drivers.  But he defended the EU's new training requirements, saying: 'If you're driving a motor vehicle, with the investment you've got in that motor vehicle, it's no bad thing to know what you're doing.'

In a Commons debate last month, Tory MP Philip Hollobone warned: 'The country faces a national shortage of 40,000 qualified HGV drivers, which is acting as a brake on national economoic growth.'

Douglas McCormick from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills has said: 'Because logistics underpins the operaitons of so many other businesses we often do not think about it by itself but its overall contribution to the economy is huge.  As over 60 per cent of goods in the UK are moved by road, driver shortages would cause serious knock-on effects to the rest of the economy.'

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