Two UK business groups, Logistics UK and British Retail Consortium (BRC) have appealed to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to work on tackling the supply chain crisis.

The two groups wrote to Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the Secretary of State at BEIS, outlining three key steps that can be taken to “overcome the problem and protect the supply chain” that has caused limited availability and impacted deliveries in the retail channel.

  • Increase DVSA’s testing capacity permanently so the agency is able to process the backlog of driver tests placed on hold during the pandemic
  • Review its decision not to grant temporary work visas to HGV drivers from the EU, as such drivers could supplement the domestic HGV workforce in the short-term, while the testing backlog is cleared, and new drivers are trained and become qualified
  • Reforming the National Skills Fund to fund HGV driver training and injecting flexibility into the Apprenticeship Levy

According to the groups, the crisis is anticipated to worsen in the coming months as demand for goods increases with the new school year starting, businesses returning to their workplaces post-Covid-19 restrictions, and the build-up to Christmas beginning – traditionally the peak time for logistics movements.

Chief executive of Logistics UK David Wells said that retail and logistics industries are taking proactive measures to address the driver shortage challenge – including increasing pay rates, offering bonuses, and implementing internal training schemes – but the government must take immediate action to support supply chains.

“The current shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers is placing unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains. While there was a shortage of HGV drivers prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, these two events have exacerbated the situation; the pandemic halted driver training and testing for more than 12 months, while an estimated 25,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the transition period.”