More supply chain chaos as HGV driver shortage hits home

Retailers may be facing even more supply chain delays as a nationwide shortage of HGV drivers looks set to make existing problems even worse.

This is the stark warning from skills development specialist Enginuity, which believes the supply chain to manufacturers is on the brink of collapse this summer and is calling for urgent intervention by the Government before it goes into summer recess.

Blamed for the latest crisis are factors such as a Brexit-induced exodus of European drivers, Covid testing delays at British and European ports, self-isolation, summer holidays and the impact on driver training of the pandemic.

Research indicates that there are currently almost 100,000 vacancies for HGV Class 1 and 2 and delivery drivers.

BMA chief executive Tom Reynolds says it is unwelcome but not unexpected. He told kbbreview: “HGV driver shortages are an unwelcome development, but sadly are not a surprise. Hauliers’ trade bodies have been warning for some time about a real risk of the supply chains grinding to a halt, and BMA members are already experiencing some problems. Right away the Government should reconsider adding foreign drivers to the Shortage Occupations list.

“Bathroom manufacturers are facing many of the same supply-side challenges as in other parts of the economy. A period of exceptionally high demand has coincided with limited availability of certain raw materials, problems in global shipping and volatility in costs. While there has undoubtedly been some supply disruption, bathroom manufacturers have been working flat out to prevent more widespread product shortages.”

On behalf of specialist KBB retailers, KBSA national chair Richard Hibbert added: “The market is experiencing delays on the delivery of goods and materials, which is making it challenging for everyone in the supply chain to plan ahead. KBB retailers have consumers ready to move ahead with projects and are having to juggle to meet start dates and keep projects on track.

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“If the situation continues, we are also likely to experience issues with getting spares in good time, as it will not be viable for these to be delivered ad-hoc when required, as they are now. The KBSA is working with members to help them remain flexible and agile, as it is likely to be some time before these issues are resolved.”  

Ann Watson, Enginuity Group chief executive has called for urgent action from the Government to avert a potential catastrophe.

Ann Watson, CEO, Enginuity Group

She said: “We are on the verge of a crisis which threatens the viability of manufacturing across the country – we need some urgent intervention from Government before the House rises for summer recess. Manufacturing is of strategic importance to the UK economy and never more so as firms seek to assert themselves globally post-Brexit. Supply chains have already seen major disruption due to parts and materials shortages caused by Covid.”

Watson added: “Unless our supply chains function effectively, firms risk their own financial security – something that will have major knock-on effects for employment and skills.” 

Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett said that this longstanding problem has been exacerbated by the upturn in the economy.

“Increasing demand across supply chains and the reopening of non-essential retail outlets and parts of the hospitality sector is making the situation even worse,” he said. “The long-term ineffectiveness of apprenticeships for lorry drivers and the general hostility from authorities and Government is also unhelpful for recruiting and retaining drivers. We need Government to act and address the driver shortage for the industry and the drivers.” •

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