The suggestion that army drivers should be called in to deliver groceries to UK supermarkets was less than enthusiastically received by industry associations.
Reports in UK national newspapers – not yet confirmed by the government – suggest the army is on standby to aid grocers.
That Daily mail reported on Sunday (Aug. 8) that up to 2,000 Royal Logistics Corps truck drivers live five days in advance to deliver groceries and essentials to supermarkets.
There is a drastic shortage of truckers due to a number of factors including drivers leaving the country after Brexit and the Covid crisis and a deadlock in the system that has resulted in thousands of potential hauliers still on their trucks -Tests are waiting.
In June, the Road Haulage Association warned the UK is short of 100,000 truck drivers, making it difficult to deliver food from warehouses to supermarkets.
The newspaper speaker said the government is expected to seek help “immediately” from the military to cope with a crisis that has left some supermarket shelves empty and industry associations urged the government to take immediate action before the situation gets worse.
However, industry bodies point out that this is not a viable solution if the stories are correct.
A spokesman for the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said: “As for the driver crisis, it’s getting worse, but not much has changed in the government’s response.
“The transportation industry is still missing over 60,000 drivers, so 2,000 army truck drivers won’t attack the problem.
“Our members continue to suffer from severe labor shortages in all areas of production and logistics and are stifling the industry’s ability to act.”
Industry colleague The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), meanwhile, urges the government to seek solutions in both the short and long term.
Mark Harrison, Economic Research and Employment Policy Manager, said: “The EVS is working closely with other affected agencies to find ways to mitigate the effects of labor shortages. This includes temporary solutions that reduce the pressure on the labor market, such as a short-term visa for truck drivers, but also ensuring medium and long-term measures to increase domestic training and recruitment such as restart and lifetime skills guarantee.
“Given that the solutions proposed by the industry are likely to have long lead times, we urge the government to start implementing them as soon as possible to ensure that capacity is available before Christmas demand picks up in the fall.”
Just Food has asked the UK Ministry of Defense for clarification on the media reports.