British supermarkets could soon be left with “gaps on shelves” unless the government solves the shortfall of HGV drivers, industry leaders have warned.
In a letter sent to Boris Johnson, trade associations including the Federation of Wholesale Distributors called for temporary work visas for European drivers.
“We firmly believe that intervention from the prime minister/Cabinet Office is the only way we will be able to avert critical supply chains failing at an unprecedented and unimaginable level,” they wrote.
“Supermarkets are already reporting that they are not receiving their expected food stocks and, as a result, there is considerable wastage.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA), which coordinated the letter, believes the country needs 70,000 delivery drivers to avoid food shortages.
“We are weeks away from gaps on the shelves, it is as serious as that,” RHA chief executive Richard Burnett told ITV News.
“The government needs to treat this as an absolute priority.”
The personal appeal to the prime minister is likely the result of an unsuccessful meeting between industry bosses and transport minister Charlotte Vere.
One source told The Grocer that Vere thought the sector was “crying wolf”.
“We have heard this three or four times before and the world didn’t fall apart last time,” she reportedly said.
The news comes after Morrisons revealed it would halt deliveries to independent retailers after struggling to source lorry drivers.
Having spent £6 million last year to “accelerate” its wholesale business, it closed the accounts of “ad-hoc” customers on June 18.