We are seeing the shortage of HGV drivers impacting all sectors of the economy. The pandemic, the ping-demic and the consequences of Brexit have created a crisis which is showing no signs of easing.

After months of well-documented warnings over the impact from national haulier groups, bathroom manufacturers are now also facing a range of supply-side challenges. Shipping and raw material costs have rocketed, leading to difficult pricing decisions and making it hard to enjoy the highly elevated levels of demand for products. Pent-up consumer spend is driving this demand, but without reliable logistics, supply chains are buckling.  

While there has undoubtedly been some supply disruption for merchants and retailers, the sector is working flat-out to prevent more widespread product shortages.

Government says it is talking with industry and is taking action on driver shortages, with stories of army intervention, increased vocational test capacity, and additional apprenticeship funding. These solutions are great for the two-three year picture, but they are unlikely to create the influx of drivers needed across all industries in the immediate and short-term. The one policy intervention that could make a difference, adding HGV drivers to the shortage occupation list to allow more EU drivers to work in the UK, has been explicitly ruled out by the Home Office. Let’s be honest, this is a political decision and a choice by Ministers to put the economy second to their ideology.

The haulage situation is compounded by problems in global shipping and volatility in costs of raw materials. DHL has warned shippers to expect higher freight rates long-term, with little easing in the market until Chinese New Year 2022 and ‘normality’ in 2023.

Having recently met with the Department for Transport and The Department for International Trade to discuss this issue, BMA is reiterating calls for the UK Government to demonstrate international leadership on this issue.
We are told various stakeholders in shipping, ports and logistics are now working together to better communicate, and it’s important for intelligence from this effort to be widely shared.

Global shipping issues cannot be handled by any single Government alone, but a functional shipping system is fundamental to our national trading ambitions. Government must use its newly independent voice to tackle the crisis, or the rhetoric about free-trade Britain becomes embarrassingly hollow.

There needs to be a recognition that shipping and haulage, the nuts and bolts of trading are a vital part of the economy. I fear the Government will need to find that out the hard way before expending any political capital.