Haulage driver shortage could mean empty shelves this Christmas

17/11/2014

Families have been urged to start their Christmas shopping now because of a shortage of logistics delivery drivers in the UK.

New training rules for haulage drivers have led to thousands quitting the transport and logistics industry due to expensive training and the Road Haulage Association said there could be ‘empty shelves’ this Christmas.

The plea for families not to leave their shopping until the last minute comes despite there still being 6 weeks to go until Christmas.

In an interview, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said he ‘hopes and thinks’ there will be no problems in the next 6 weeks, before adding: ‘But I advise everybody to get their shopping done.’

Haulage drivers have warned 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.

Urgent and nexgt-day deliveries of presents bought online from firms such as Amazon could also be affected according to couriers and hauliers. In addition, Christmas meals could be affected because perishable vegetable deliveries could be delayed.

The EU’s new training rules mean the transport and logistics industry is 60,000 drivers short, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The Freight Transport Association believes that 20,000 drivers have either taken early retirement or moved to different jobs as a result of the Certificate of Professional Competence becoming mandatory in September.

The mandatory qualification involves 35 hours of training and costs up to £300. Drivers who do not hold it risk receiving a £1000 fine.

James Hookham, Managing Director of the Freight Transport Association, said:

‘This is the first Christmas when we have had this requirement and many drivers are saying, “I didn’t take up truck-driving to go back to school” and just voting with their feet.’

Kate Gibbs, of the Road Haulage Association, said:

‘There is a possibility that shelves will empty and be slower to fill this Christmas.

‘We always see people stocking up at Christmas as if the shops are going to be closed for two months.

‘It is the perishable goods – the big bags of mandarin oranges, the vegetables that go with the turkey. All of the perishable goods have a rapid turnover and a short shelf life. We have got to make sure those shelves are filled.’

A logistics recruitment company representative said:

‘It’s a crisis. Christmas could be put on hold.’

Agencies that provide extra drivers during the pre-Christmas peak have also echoed the concerns, stating that they have no more spare drivers.

New rules mean all lorry drivers must undergo 35 hours of training at a cost of £500, but many have left the industry altogether

Asked whether he would be doing his Christmas shopping early, he said: ‘No. I’d rather not go in to my Christmas present list. I’m actually a bit better prepared this year than I am most years. My wife’s very worried about it. I’ve told her I’ve sorted her present out.’

Last night, sources close to Mr McLoughlin said the Christmas shopping warning was only a ‘light-hearted exchange’.

‘We don’t think there’s any real concern,’ the source said. ‘Driver training makes our roads safer, helping the delivery of presents on time.’

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 economic growth.’

Douglas McCormick, from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, has said: ‘Because logistics underpins the operation of so many other businesses we often do not think about it by itself, but its overall contribution to the economy is huge.’

Britain needs between 45,000 and 60,000 extra lorry drivers, according to estimates.

The Road Haulage Association wants Chancellor George Osborne to offer funding to train a new generation of drivers – especially women – in next month’s Autumn Statement.

However, the comments have shone a spotlight on a crisis in the industry, with too few people choosing a career in haulage.

Douglas McCormick, from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, has said: ‘Because logistics underpins the operation 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.’

A spokesman for online market place eBay said deliveries were crucial to the consumer market.

The spokesman said: ‘Getting delivery right is absolutely important which is why more than half the items sold by businesses large and small on eBay offer free delivery and a range of fast delivery options.

‘More and more, customers are choosing Click and Collect and on eBay there are millions of items available for convenient collection from over 650 Argos stores throughout the UK.’

OSE European are based in Newcastle upon Tyne, in the north of England, and also have European premises in Veurne, Belgium. Specialising in same day and next day express pallet delivery services, OSE also provide complete logistics, freight forwarding and supply chain management solutions.

For more information please visit our website homepage at www.oseeuro.com.