Transport minister Grant Shapps has announced a “temporary extension” to the number of hours lorry drivers can drive to address the driver shortage that has hit UK supply chains.
Shapps tweeted that a temporary extension of drivers hours would start on Monday 12 July.
A combination of pandemic-induced strain and post-Brexit immigration controls, leading foreign drivers to return home, have meant staff shortages and warnings that supply chains could collapse, the Guardian reports.
Industry body Logistics UK has reacted with “dismay”. James Firth, its head of road freight regulation policy said “the announcement will heap more pressure on drivers who are already stretched to the limit”.
Logistics UK estimates there is a 90,000 shortfall in drivers which can only be addressed with longer term solutions, including temporary visas for EU drivers while the UK trains a new workforce.
The Home Office has resisted pressure on visas, the FT reports. According to the Department for Transport, the driver rule change will allow only a slight increase in daily driving hours, from nine to 10, with an 11-hour limit allowed twice weekly.
Operators will have to notify the department if they introduce the increased hours and should do so only if essential.
According to the Grocer, the government is in detailed talks with logistics companies on adding HGV drivers to the post-Brexit skills shortage occupation list.
A source told The Grocer that the DoT has been consulting on timescales for temporary visas, with the industry favouring an 18-month minimum extension, rather than a six-month that has been suggested.
Crisis talks are continuing this week with food and drink leaders and logistics representatives.
Meanwhile, Tesco is looking to pass on increased costs from the driver shortage to suppliers in the form of a 14% surcharge on its primary distribution rates, the Grocer reports. It will run for three months from 1 August before being reviewed.
Tesco has said it is also addressing the crisis by increasing the use of rail for importing food from Europe and reducing the time drivers spend at depots.