Milk supplier Arla has warned supermarkets will face a “summer of disruption” if the UK government does not address the lorry driver crisis.
Arla’s UK managing director Ash Amirahmadi said they deliver milk to 2,400 stores a day, but they are unable to get deliveries to 10% of stores daily due to lorry driver shortages.
Arla, which produces one in five bottles of milk sold in the UK, said it was unable to make deliveries to 25% of its supermarkets last weekend, representing around 600 stores.
Amirahmadi told BBC Radio 4: “I think when you are not able to supply 10% of the stores which are expecting to get milk every day, I think that’s quite worrying for a customer walking into a store and not being able to have milk, so we are taking it very seriously.
"Since the beginning of April, we have experienced driver shortages. That has increased to such a level now that we are not able to deliver milk to every store that we'd like to.”
Supermarkets have faced increasing pressures on stock due to a 100,000 shortfall in the number of drivers, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA).
The RHA estimates 30,000 HGV driver tests were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and Logistics UK estimates 25,000 lorry drivers returned to the EU following Brexit.
Arla have offered bonuses of £2,000 to drivers prepared to work weekends, mirroring efforts by Tesco, which have offered new drivers a bonus of £1,000.
Amirahmadi called on the government to accelerate testing programmes for HGV licenses, as well as allowing temporary visas for EU workers to work in the haulage sector.
He said: “We are experiencing the problem getting worse and that’s why our assessment is that we are in a driver shortage crisis and therefore we are asking for the industry and government to work together to recognise we are in a crisis and address the issue.”
He said they could not predict how long the shortages would last.
The government previously announced a temporary extension to drivers’ working hours to combat the driver shortages.
However Logistics UK said they “vehemently opposed” the plan and it “wallpapered over the problem”.
Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's have asked suppliers for additional payments to cover higher transport costs linked to the driver shortage.
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