drivers

Manston lorry park to shut for good

The makeshift lorry park at Manston[1] which opened last winter is to shut for good at the end of this month.

The government has confirmed it will not extend its use of the airport beyond June 30, when the current lease expires.

Lorries at Manston in December. Picture: UKNIP

Lorries at Manston in December. Picture: UKNIP

Lorries at Manston in December. Picture: UKNIP

It was acquired as a contingency to provide a holding area when freight traffic was delayed during the transition period out of the European Union.

The sprawling site was used a Covid test site for thousands of lorry drivers over the Christmas period, with much disruption being caused over the festive season.

But for the past months, the sprawling site has rarely been used.

In March, it was decided lorries bound for the Channel ports would no longer be directed to Manston[2] for customs checks or Covid tests.

And now, analysis of predicted tourist traffic levels during the summer and potential knock-on impact on freight traffic shows Manston’s use is not required.

The site was originally set up to swab lorry drivers just before Christmas after the French authorities insisted no one could enter France without a negative test result.

It left thousands of hauliers stuck at Manston over Christmas, with the backlog only cleared when hundreds of soldiers were drafted in to help with testing.

Earlier this year shocking revelations of drug-taking, illicit sex and fake Covid results emerged[3] involving employees brought in to manage the testing operation.

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet[4]

A1 closure sparks worries of stuck lorries

The county council is asking lorry drivers to be “extra cautious” when they are diverted through the centre of Grantham after a large vehicle became stuck and traffic lights were damaged.

Traffic is being diverted off the A1 at Grantham[1] overnight for work to be carried out as part of the construction of the new southern relief road.

But there have been complaints about lorries getting stuck[2] at the junction of Westgate and Dysart Road in Grantham town centre and damage to traffic lights. Local resident Paul Hodges complained of traffic building up in the town centre when a lorry with an abnormal load got stuck outside his home for an hour.

Paul Hodges took this picture of the lorry trying to negotiate the corner of Dysart Road and Westgate. (48097138)

Paul Hodges took this picture of the lorry trying to negotiate the corner of Dysart Road and Westgate. (48097138)

Paul Hodges took this picture of the lorry trying to negotiate the corner of Dysart Road and Westgate. (48097138)

In response to the complaints Lincolnshire County Council highways department says it is asking lorry drivers to be ‘extra cautious’ while driving through the town centre.

Councillor Richard Davies, executive member for highways, said: “We understand the questions and concerns residents have about the HGV diversion route in place for our final set of night-time A1 works.

“This route was selected because the A606/A607 was not available to us due to other works in the area. The diversion we are using also saves drivers over thirty minutes compared to using the A606/A607, meaning all A1 users are less affected by our night-time closures.

“These A1 closures are still on track to finish in September. In the meantime, we ask all lorry drivers to be extra cautious when driving through Grantham and to contact Galliford Try if they are carrying an abnormal load so they can discuss alternative options with the team in advance.

“I also want to thank residents for staying patient throughout these works and understanding the benefits the new relief road will bring Grantham when it’s fully opened in 2023.”



References

  1. ^ diverted off the A1 at Grantham (www.granthamjournal.co.uk)
  2. ^ complaints about lorries getting stuck (www.granthamjournal.co.uk)

James O’Brien asks when people will see Brexit downsides, as food trade hits ‘crisis point’

18 June 2021, 14:58

By Fiona Jones

James O’Brien questioned when people will accept the pitfalls of Brexit, as Tesco is forced to bin almost 50,000 tonnes of fresh food every week due to severe shortage of heavy goods drivers in the UK.

Reported in industry publication The Grocer, Tesco made this admission during an industry-wide round-table organised by the Department for Transport.

Alongside exportation problems, the “chronic driver shortage and staff shortfalls” means a food shortage in the UK is “inevitable”, with imported goods being rarer and pricier, The Grocer said.

With food and drink exports to the EU from the UK almost halved, 65,000 HGV drivers are needed to fill the gap made by a mass exodus of EU drivers, according to Road Haulage Association.

The crisis is so severe one leading industry figure has called for the Government to put the Army on standby to transport food if the situation worsens.

James O’Brien reacted to this: “When will it become inarguable?”

“So I can tell you that 50 tonnes of food is currently being thrown away in Tesco, Tesco can say it is in large part, not entirely obviously, we’re in the middle of a pandemic still, Tesco will say it is in large part because of Brexit, we can’t get the drivers.

“You will say no it isn’t. I wonder at what point does it become inarguable?”

He pointed out that food and drink exports to anywhere outside the EU have returned “roughly to normal levels so [Covid] is not the reason.”

He cited his local convenience store a shortage of fresh produce, questioning whether that is part of a bigger picture, also noticing a slight increase of pictures of empty shelves on Twitter.

“I do wonder whether you are already feeling the pinch. As ever now, the people I really really really want to hear from are the people who are absolutely convinced there was never going to be any pinch.

James surmised, “So UK food and drink exports to the European Union have almost halved in the first three months of the year, meanwhile over at Tesco suppliers are being forced to bin nearly 50 tonnes of food a week due to a lorry driver crisis.

“Imagine in a normal country that wasn’t still enslaved to Brexit what the tabloid papers would be doing with the news that leading industry figures are calling for the army to be put on standby. Normally they love that, don’t they?

The people that prioritise flags over facts. They think that ten students taking down a photograph of the Queen is really really bad but Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, flying to Balmoral to lie to her is absolutely fine, normally they’d love this.

“They’ve got the Army on standby, this is outrageous! Nope, not a word. Not a sausage, not a syllable. Such a severe situation, according to one leading industry figure, that he’s calling for the Government to put the Army on standby to transport food.”

The suggestion was made by James Bielby, chief executive officer of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors.

He said: “The situation has reached crisis point and it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases.

“We are concerned enough to suggest that the Government considers having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.”

Tonnes of food is wasted each week due to driver shortages, warns Tesco and industry experts

Almost 50 tonnes of food is going in the bin each week reported Tesco, as experts warn the government of a heavy goods vehicle driver shortage.

During an industry-wide roundtable with ministers on Wednesday, organised by the Department for Transport[1], UK retailer Tesco highlighted that 48 tonnes of food had been wasted in the past seven days.

Industry experts have advised that there are not enough drivers to meet current demands.

“Since the beginning of the year, 15,000 European lorry drivers[2], which were reinforcing our staffing, have left because of Brexit, because they didn’t feel welcome and immigration problems,” Rod McKenzie, CEO of the Road Haulage Association[3] (RHA), told The Independent.

“The tax changes that came in in April have also been difficult for them.”

In addition, the RHA stated that some 30,000 lorry driver tests were cancelled last year, due to the pandemic.

That adds up to “30,000 potential lorry drivers,” said McKenzie. “There is an absolute danger to the UK supply chain[4] on which we all depend – 95 per cent of what we have comes from the back of a lorry.

“Whether you work in the food or building sector, there are clear delays.”

The diver shortage is especially problematic when it comes to perishable goods, said Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation.

“If some chilled and very short life products can’t be delivered they have to be destroyed,” he told The Independent.

“We are seeing the deployment of assets from the frozen food chain into the chilled food chain to try and avoid that wastage.

“Everyone is trying to work out how we can cope with the demand with the lack of labour. We are in urgent talks across the industry and in government about what can be done to get us through the summer.

“We are trying to do our day job without people.”

Where safe to do so, Tesco and other UK retailers donate food to charities and food banks, but spoiled food often goes straight to landfill.

Average deliveries to food redistribution charity FareShare would be 150-160 tonnes per day, but are down to about 100, translating to 800,000 meals a week for people suffering from food poverty, the charity told The Grocer.

“Food we would normally expect to receive into our warehouses on an average day is at risk of not reaching us, and therefore at risk of not reaching the vulnerable people we support,” said Lindsay Boswell, CEO of FareShare.

The historic ability of the UK to deliver is now under threat, claims McKenzie, who suggested the government let European drivers back in, speed up and prioritise driver testing, and “do more at apprenticeship level”.

As a nation, our mindset when it comes to lorry drivers has to change, he claims: “We need to make lorry drivers feel more loved – these guys do an essential job.”

References

  1. ^ Department for Transport (www.independent.co.uk)
  2. ^ lorry drivers (www.independent.co.uk)
  3. ^ Road Haulage Association (www.independent.co.uk)
  4. ^ supply chain (www.independent.co.uk)

Driver shortage causes UK supply crisis

A shortage of lorry drivers is resulting in fresh produce being dumped or left to rot in cold stores, while supermarket shelves and restaurant plates go empty, produce suppliers and retailers warn.

The driver deficit – the worst in over 20 years, according to driver recruitment agency Driver Require – is the result of an exodus of EU drivers post-Brexit and government failure to recruit a replacement workforce. The coronavirus pandemic, which has prevented driving tests and training for over a year, as well as a hike in driver costs, has exacerbated the shortfall.

Haulage companies are therefore struggling to deliver goods – either imported or domestically produced – to UK retailers and restaurants, causing delays and product losses, and empty plates and shelves, distributors say.

Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, is understood to have informed the UK Government’s Department of Transport that its suppliers are being forced to bin nearly 50 tonnes of fresh food every week because there are too few lorry drivers to transport produce to stores.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) is so concerned that it has urged the government to consider having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.

“It’s shocking, but it’s true. The acute shortage of HGV drivers is now the direct cause of perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in coldstores,” Tim O’Malley, managing director of major UK produce distributor Nationwide Produce, told FPJ. “In all my years in fresh produce I’ve never seen anything like this. Goods are being produced, but not delivered.”

The current situation – dubbed a national crisis by some suppliers – is predicted to get worse as the UK continues to open up after lockdown, and demand increases from hospitality and retail.

Brexit clearance issues and a global shortage of shipping containers are further deepening transport problems for imported produce, one source told FPJ.

“The driver shortage has reached crisis point for some of our members and we believe it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases,” said FWD chief executive James Bielby.

“With the estimated 70,000 shortfall in HGV drivers, some wholesalers have had to limit the number of deliveries they make to convenience stores which has led to some availability issues.

“We’ve asked the government to re-instate the temporary extension of drivers’ hours (from 9 to 11) which was in place last year but ended recently. Other proposals we are putting forward include ending furlough for HGV drivers, temporarily waiving requirements for medical certs and CPC for those which have run out, and using army drivers to deliver to vulnerable communities.”

Meanwhile, in an open letter to the FPJ, Nationwide Produce’s O’Malley urged produce industry suppliers to work with hauliers and customers to get through this crisis.

“I would urge you not to shout at your hauliers and threaten them with bills, as that will get you nowhere – work with them to find solutions,” he wrote. “Customers will have to be far more flexible on delivery times. We also need to stop hauling fresh air around the country. Full pallets and full loads are what we need in a crisis like this.”

O’Malley added that customers need to be more flexible on date codes to allow direct deliveries from abroad. “I’m sure this will eventually lead us all to adopt better practices, but for now we need to work together to find a way through this crisis,” he said.

Alex Veitch, general manager – public policy at Logistics UK, added: “With a large pool of potential candidates available, owing to the nation’s higher unemployment, Logistics UK is urging the government to make HGV driver training affordable, accessible and attractive for all. 

“Our 2021 Logistics Report shows that 29 per cent of logistics businesses anticipate that they will be unable to fill vacancies for HGV drivers this year; a further 14.5 per cent expect long delays before filling a role. With the logistics industry in urgent need of these workers, Logistics UK is urging the government to include training for HGV Drivers in their list of courses funded through the National Skills Fund to reskill potential employees and help recruit them into the industry.

“Logistics UK is also urging the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to maintain its fast-track programme to catch-up on at least 30,000 driving tests that were postponed due to COVID-19 between March and December 2020; this has left thousands of potential HGV drivers waiting in the wings when the UK needs them most to support every facet of UK PLC.”

Tesco sounds alarm over driver shortages

The boss of Tesco has sounded the alarm over driver shortages as the labour crisis shows no signs of abating. 

Britain’s biggest supermarket chain said it was grappling with a chronic shortage of lorry drivers and was working hard to remedy the situation. 

The Road Haulage Association and company bosses met with ministers this week to stress a “growing peril” to supply chains from the worsening lorry driver shortage.

There is an estimated shortfall of some 65,000 drivers, mainly because EU workers had left the UK and the suspension of driver training and testing during the pandemic. The shortage has sent wages rise by a fifth. 

Ken Murphy, chief executive of Tesco, said that if the crisis worsens the retailer might have to pay more to attract drivers.

He insisted that there were no gaps on shelves because of the shortages and that the supply chain was “in good shape”. 

“What I’m hearing is we can manage it and we have to play it as we see it,” he added. “Once there is an understanding that there is availability of work [at Tesco among drivers] and rates are potentially more attractive, they will fill very quickly.”

About 48 tonnes of food – enough to fill two trucks – destined for Tesco is being thrown away every week as a result of the shortages. 

FareShare, the food redistribution charity, estimated that up to a third of the food that would otherwise be sent to its warehouses was not getting through due to problems in the haulage sector. 

Earlier this month FTSE 100 discount chain B&M also revealed it was struggling to hire both drivers and workers for night shifts at its distribution centres.

Tesco’s total retail like-for-like sales rose by 1pc to £13.4bn for the 13 weeks to May 29, and by 8.1pc compared to the same period two years ago.

Shares fell 2.4pc to 225p.

References

  1. ^ Markets Hub – Tesco (cf-particle-html.eip.telegraph.co.uk)