(Matt Chorley) Shoppers could be faced with empty shelves without urgent action to recruit an army of lorry drivers, it was warned today.
Chancellor George Osborne is under pressure to announce support for training in the haulage industry in the Budget this week, amid warnings of shortage of 45,000 drivers.
The crisis in in the industry could mean food shortages at peak times, including this Easter and the summer months.
New training rules mean the logistics industry is thousands of drivers short, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.
The Freight Transport Association claims more than 20,000 drivers have quit since September.
It comes after a new Driver Certificate of Professional Competence was introduced across the EU, which meant drivers had to complete an extra 35 hours training, costing some £500.
Hauliers say the rules mean there are not enough people to drive lorries across the country, raising the prospect of ’empty shelves’.
Mr Osborne is being urged to find £150million to increase training for thousands of drivers before the shortages hit vital supplies.
Richard Burnett, the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, told the Telegraph: ‘We need George Osborne to dig deep and find a way through this.
‘The problem isn’t going to go away. If it’s not tackled in this Budget, then whoever comes in to government are going to have to wake up and recognise that this is a significant issue and it’s growing. We’ve no young people coming through into the industry.’
He added: ‘There’s going to be an impact in terms of getting goods to consumers on time. The expectation in the market is immediate, but we’re seeing signs of slowing. We’ve insufficient drivers to get products there on time.
‘That’s set to get worse. We will see delivery failure during the peak trading periods. Bank Holiday weekends, during the summer where you see big spikes when the weather starts to improve and there’s a massive draw upon driver resource, we’re going to see problems — definitely at Christmas this year as we see a further reduction in the number of drivers.
Six weeks before Chrismtmas, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin urged people to ‘get their shopping done’ in case the driver shortage hit the supply of food and presents.
He defended the new EU rules, arguing that drivers need to know how to drive their lorries properly.
But he urged people not to leave their shopping until the last minute, in case supply lines are affected.
‘If you’re driving a motor vehicle, with the investment you’ve got in that motor vehicle, it’s no bad thing to know what you’re doing,’ he told the ConservativeHome website.
Asked if there were going to problems with deliveries before Christmas, he replied: ‘I hope not. I hope not. I think we’ll be all right. But I’d advise everybody to get their shopping done.’