The United Kingdom government has put the army on standby to deliver fuel to petrol stations as motorists drain supplies across the country.
Business leaders have also warned of winter food shortages due to a lack of lorry drivers and food processing staff. Ongoing issues with Britain’s supply chain have resulted in empty shelves in supermarkets and some restaurants are taking certain meals off the menu.
According to the office for national statistics, 7% of UK firms reported difficulties in obtaining raw materials, products, or services in September.
The food industry leaders believe this is a worrying sign ahead of the busiest part of the year. “We really started preparing for Christmas in the beginning of July and laying things like pigs and blankets down for the freezer because we haven’t got the staff.. no one started doing that, so we are already sort of six to eight weeks behind with that production for Christmas,” said Nick Allen, British Meat Processors Association Chief Executive.
He added, “If you are going to the supermarkets now, you will find less choice. What you will see at Christmas time is fewer Christmas goodies on the shelves.”
One of the major issues causing the supply chain pain is a shortage of truck drivers. Thousands of European drivers went home during Covid-19 lockdowns and haven’t returned and new Brexit immigration rules are making it much harder for new drivers to work in the UK.
At present, there is a big shortage of heavy good vehicles (HGV) drivers, around 100,000 and that is major. It is affecting large part of UK’s economy and the impact can be seen already in empty shelves.
Officials in that sector predict the disruption will continue into next year unless the government acts quickly. “It is essential that overseas drivers are allowed in on short-term visas between now and Christmas to plug this gap, longer term we need apprenticeships that will work for the system, government needs to address that because it costs between four and seven thousand pounds to train to be a trucker, fresh blood is what we need and we need it urgently,” said Rod McKenzie, Road Haulage Association Policy Managing Director.
The shortage of truck drivers delivering to businesses has resulted in wages skyrocketing. One UK firm hiked workers salaries by 40% overnight but these costs will inevitably land at consumer feet as the prices of goods on the shelves will inevitably increase.