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East Midlands Chamber News

Government has ignored warning signs over HGV driver shortage for too long amid fuel supply crisis, says East Midlands Chamber

Commenting on the ongoing fuel supply crisis and HGV driver shortage, East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “While we welcome the Government’s intervention to offer temporary visas for 5,000 foreign lorry drivers and to suspend competition law between oil firms, this is merely sticking a tiny plaster on a gaping wound.

“The issue of HGV driver shortages existed long before Brexit and Covid-19, with the logistics industry losing workers to retirement and other sectors, while struggling to attract younger employees.

“But the reality of an estimated 25,000 European drivers returning home this year has left a huge hole in capacity, with the issue now exacerbated by driver training and testing being halted for more than a year due to the pandemic.

“The fuel shortage has brought all these complex supply chain issues to a head, but other sectors had already been feeling the impact in recent months, including in retail where shelves are noticeably short of usual stock.

“The common thread here is that demand is returning strongly – footfall is up in town and city centre high streets, and more people are using their cars again, which together are boosting hard-hit sectors like retail, hospitality and leisure – and this is outstripping the capacity to supply.

“Ultimately, policymakers have taken for granted how supply chains work and failed to heed the warning signs that have been flashing for some time.

“For example, a haulage firm in East Midlands Chamber membership told us in June it had lorries sat on the tarmac because it couldn’t find enough drivers, so this is by no means a temporary problem that will be solved overnight.

“Government should be prepared to significantly expand the number of visas issued within this scheme and convene a summit that brings business and decision-makers together to find both immediate and longer-term solutions to the many challenges facing firms throughout the UK.

"Without further action, we now face the very real prospect of serious damage to our economic recovery, stifled growth, and another less than happy Christmas for many businesses and their customers across the country.”