Working conditions push lorry drivers and seafarers to the edge, putting supply chains at risk

Wed 14 Jul 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


Britain’s lorry drivers are leaving the industry for better pay and conditions in other sectors, exacerbating the ongoing driver shortage.

With the UK facing a shortage of 100,000 drivers, the government has eased driver working hours and is thought to be considering a visa scheme to lure back European drivers who left after Brexit.

It’s not about the money

Although wages are spiralling as demand for drivers outstrips supply, the Loadstar reports that money is not the only issue.

Drivers are quitting the industry for a range of factors including unsociable hours, port delays, traffic issues, and even being denied access to toilet facilities.

One driver said he switched to warehouse work for the same money and more time with his family after driving left him feeling terrible.

Ageing workforce

Kevin Williams, managing director of trucking company James Kemball, said the workforce was ageing with many drivers in their seventies who are relatively financially secure and not needing to “chase hours”.

“We will all need to encourage newcomers into our industry and undertake training to ensure we have enough drivers for the future, and provide opportunities to drivers who have passed their test but need to gain experience,” he said.


Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett has called the decision to extend hours “madness”.

“Loading more hours on to drivers that are already exhausted is not the answer, this will only push more to leave,” he tweeted.

Vaccination gap

At a global level, supply chains are also being endangered by the slow vaccination of sailors, according to Bloomberg.

The shipping industry is sounding the alarm as infections in the industry increase.

More than half of the 1.6 million seafarers globally come from developing nations such as India, the Philippines or Indonesia, which have typically had slower vaccination rollouts.

Esben Poulsson, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, said: “With this new delta strain, there’s no doubt it’s setting us back and the situation is getting worse.” 


According to the World Economic Forum, thousands of sailors are being left stranded on their ships after their contracts have expired due to tightened restrictions preventing them from returning home.

This will drive them out of the industry, it claims. It has also called on governments to do more to allow crew changes to take place safely.

Channel strike

Further disruption closer to home could be on the cards as seafarers' union Nautilus is balloting members on strike action on cross-Channel vessels, reports Loadstar.

The union is concerned that P&O’s Pride of Burgundy vessel, which has been brought in to help with booming demand, has fewer officers than needed and those who are working are doing so for longer hours. It also claims the ship is reliant on agency labour rather than a permanent crew.

Strike action could commence on 26 August.