The boss of the UK’s biggest dairy supplier has said supermarkets could face a “summer of disruption” to milk deliveries if the government does not act to address a shortage of lorry drivers.
Arla, which supplies milk to about 2400 stores each day in the UK, has said it recently was unable to deliver to 600 stores due to dwindling driver numbers.
The managing director of the dairy supplier, Ash Amirahmadi, said the company has struggled to deliver to 10 per cent of stores on a more regular basis in recent weeks.
He told BBC Radio Today on Friday: “I think when you are not able to supply 10 per cent of the stores which are expecting to get milk every day, I think that’s quite worrying for a customer walking into a store and not being able to have milk so we are taking it very seriously.
“We are trying to avoid a summer of disruption.
“We are experiencing the problem getting worse and that’s why our assessment is that we are in a driver shortage crisis and therefore we are asking for the industry and government to work together to recognise we are in a crisis and address the issue.”
Arla said its third-party hauliers have raised wages to entice drivers while it has also offered a £2000 signing-on bonus.
This comes as Big 4 grocer Tesco announced £1000 joining bonuses to lorry drivers who join the company before the end of September.
Marks & Spencer also recently announced a sign-on bonus to new drivers who join its logistics partner Gist can earn up to £5000 in incentives through a combination of a £2000 sign-on bonus and up to three additional retention payments.
However, Amirahmadi said there also needed to be a “structural solution” from government, including improvements to testing and temporary visa changes, to resolve the shortage in the short-term.
“Going into the summer with lots more holidays coming up there is a short-term crisis that we need to make sure we don’t have food shortages in the summer,” he said.
“There is a backlog of tests for HGV drivers – we predict about 30,000 drivers are waiting to be tested.
“We want the government to work with us to accelerate that and secondly we believe that driving should be recognised as a skilled shortage and therefore they should open up temporary visas for the industry to be able to bring European drivers back into the country.”
Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a consultation to ease driver qualification requirements as part of a package of measures designed to help the issue.
He also announced a temporary extension of lorry drivers’ working hours from nine to 10 hours a day.
However, the Road Haulage Association, which has said it believes there is a shortage of 100,000 drivers, said the relaxation was a “sticking plaster”.
with PA Wires