Retailers Warn That Supply Chain Crisis Could Affect Christmas

The ongoing shortage of lorry drivers in the UK could lead to empty shelves at Christmas, leading retailers have warned. Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the frozen foods chain was already cancelling 30-40 deliveries per day, meaning that they were unable to start stockpiling for the festive season.

Other chains reporting stock shortages include Nando’s, which has temporarily closed 50 sites due to supply chain issues; McDonalds, which has run out of milkshakes and bottled drinks; Haribo, the sweet manufacturer, which is struggling to deliver to the UK, and oil company BP, which has temporarily closed some petrol stations.

There are also severe shortages in the construction sector, as well as delays to deliveries of furniture, car parts, and electrical goods, the BBC reports. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) says there is currently a shortfall of 100,000 drivers in the UK. The problem has been exacerbated by Covid, Brexit, and a delay in training and testing of new drivers.

Walker, MD of Iceland, called for government action: “The simple solution is that HGV lorry drivers need to be added to the essential and skilled worker list, like other professions such as ballerinas. These HGV drivers have kept the show on the road for 18 months during the pandemic and it’s criminal that we’re not viewing them as skilled workers.”

However, the lorry driver shortage is not just limited to the UK. Global Cold Chain News reports that the problem is pan-European. Although the UK is the worst affected country, Poland and Germany are also experiencing severe problems that are growing on a daily basis, and France, Italy, and Spain are also affected.

The publication points out the shortage has been brewing for the last 15 years, and is not just due to the pandemic. Demand for road freight transport has increased, while pay and conditions in the driver haulage industry are often unattractive to younger generations.

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