British Army HGV drivers have been put on standby to help deliver food to supermarkets in the event that the national driver shortage continues to threaten supplies
Around 2,000 HGV drivers from the army’s Royal Logistics Corps are on five-day notice to help distribute food and essential goods, after supermarkets across the country were left with shortages.
“Messages are being sent out to all Army personnel with HGV qualifications. They are being put on five-day standby notice for driving jobs at major distribution centres around the country,” a source told The Sun.
“Soldiers will be put up in hotels where necessary and will be working extended hours to assist with the crisis. They will be involved with food distribution as well as the transportation of other essential goods and medical supplies.”
In recent weeks, ongoing driver shortages have left supermarket shelves sparse with the situation likely to get worse unless more drivers are recruited.
Several supermarkets have incurred higher costs and resorted to bonuses to attract new drivers but Logistics UK estimated 25,000 HGV drivers were forced to return to the EU following Brexit.
There is also a backlog of a further 25,000 HGV driver tests which were postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions and the “pingdemic”.
However, industry bodies have criticised the decision to involve the Army. Rod McKenzie, RHA managing director of policy and public affairs, told The Sun it is only “a short-term fix”.
“It is not a good idea. We need to address what to do to get another 100,000 drivers,” he said.
Elizabeth de Jong, director of policy at Logistics UK, told Supply Management: “The decision to use Army personnel to supplement the logistics workforce would be a short-term, extreme measure which will not address the underlying issues which Logistics UK has been warning the government of for some time now."
Logistics UK is calling for the government to allow EU drivers temporary visas so they can work in the UK to fill the shortages.
De Jong said the industry is "reliant" on EU workers, and the "loss of European drivers after Brexit and the suspension on driving tests during lockdown is now being felt".
She continued: “While UK citizens train and qualify as the next-generation of drivers, which can take up to nine months, it is vital that the government extends its temporary visa regime, recently extended to agricultural workers, to logistics employees to ensure that UK plc can continue to receive the goods it needs in a timely fashion.”