Brexit and Covid-19 have left the UK with a shortage of lorry drivers, hampering the supply of food, fuel and other items.
Disruption of Life in Britain with Persistent Shortages of Essential Goods
The continuing shortages of essentials in the UK has led some large restaurant chains to shrink their menus or run out of food. It has also left supermarket shelves empty, and energy companies are seeking to quota petrol and shut down some petrol stations. The shortage of fuel at most petrol stations, which has been exacerbated in recent days by the lack of HGV drivers, has caused public panic and long queues across the country. From Leeds to Cambridge, Kent and London, there have been reports of heavy traffic jams and queues tens of metres long in front of petrol stations. The situation has worried other drivers and exacerbated the crisis.
Government Measures to Control the Crisis
Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, despite months of resistance, has finally begun negotiations to issue emergency work licences to European HGV drivers who are no longer allowed to work in the UK after the country left the European Union. Many British drivers are quarantined due to Covid-19 infections. The government is accused of not making the necessary predictions to prevent the current situation from happening, and it is even possible that fuel will be rationed in the coming days.
Government Confidence in the People to Solve the Problem of Fuel Shortages
UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has assured the people that there is no shortage of fuel in the country and that they should continue their purchases as per usual. But the continuing anxiety and panic buying has made the government think of a shortcut and issue temporary work visas for European HGV drivers so that it can control the situation as quickly as possible. Most secretaries, including the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, are said to believe that British drivers’ wages should be increased to create more domestic demand instead of using a foreign workforce. Critics are questioning why the government has taken this step after so many delays, given that British business owners have long sounded the alarm and called for such a plan.
Shutdown of British Petrol Stations Due to a Lack of HGV Drivers
BP has announced that it has shut down a number of petrol stations due to a shortage of HGV drivers to transport the fuel. Other petrol stations in the country also face severe shortages of petrol and diesel. A spokesman for the prime minister’s office claimed that other European countries were facing a similar problem and urged people not to panic and continue buying fuel as per usual. The spokesman added, however, that we understand the challenge facing the energy industry and have taken steps to resolve the issue.
Concerns About Disruptions in Food Distribution
The Petrol Retailers’ Association advised the British people to keep their tanks a quarter full in the face of the current situation and the possibility of further closures of petrol stations, in order to be able to drive to the next station. Experts worry that the consequences of a shortage of lorry drivers could disrupt food distribution in the UK. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned that there are only 10 days left to prevent a crisis at Christmas. “Unless new drivers are found in the next 10 days, it is inevitable that we will see significant disruptions in the run-up to Christmas,” said Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, the retail industry’s lobby group. “HGV drivers are the glue which hold our supply chains together,” Opie said. “Without them, we are unable to move goods from farms to warehouses to shops.”
Shortage of 90,000 Lorry Drivers in the UK
The industry needs another 90,000 drivers to meet demands after Brexit made it harder for European workers to drive in Britain and the pandemic prevented new workers from qualifying. MPs have called on the government to take action to control the situation with the help of the army.
Transportation Problems in the UK Due to a Shortage of Lorry Drivers
The main issue in the UK is the shortage of lorry drivers. The country has a shortage of tens of thousands of HGV drivers, as factors such as UK’s exit from the European Union and the outbreak of Covid-19 have created this situation. Officials urged car drivers not to rush to buy petrol after British Petroleum (BP) shut down a number of petrol stations due to a lack of tankers to transport the fuel to petrol stations. Grant Shapps said that motorists should carry on as normal. “The advice would be to carry on as normal, and that is what BP is saying as well,” he said. But despite this request, car queues have formed in front of some petrol stations across the UK and drivers are filling up their tanks.
Increasing Pressure on the Government to Facilitate Immigration Laws
As concerns mount, the transport industry has come under pressure from the government to ease immigration laws and hire more drivers from Europe. The government is resisting this move, trying to persuade people to do more for the profession, which has always been of little value to people and has a low income. But this mindset is changing. The Bolton School has seen a 20% increase in applications for the job since the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted earlier this year, and bus drivers, hospital staff or even former pilots are seeking retraining as lorry drivers, a job that has suddenly become popular with salary increases.
Countries like the United States and Germany also face driver shortages. But UK’s problem is exacerbated by Brexit. The complete withdrawal of the UK from the EU last year put an end to the right of EU citizens to live and work in the UK and made it more difficult for companies to hire a driver from Eastern Europe. The pandemic has also disrupted labour markets around the world, leaving millions unemployed, at least temporarily. About 1.4 million Europeans left the UK during the pandemic and returned to their home countries; it is not clear how many returned.
The UK’s agri-food sector is also short of manpower for fruit picking and meat packing. To address this problem, the government has increased the working hours of lorry drivers per week and made the training process easier for them. Wages have risen, and some companies are giving drivers free training, bonuses and other incentives, which is good news. The driver of a large supermarket can now earn £50,000 a year, which is more than the salaries of many teachers, police officers or even lawyers. But experts say there is still a long way to go before the situation improves.