Britain has 10 days to save Christmas, says retail sector

  • Retail industry warns of major disruption
  • Queues form at some petrol stations – Reporters Reuters
  • Britain to tighten testing of truck drivers
  • British ministers will meet to relax the rules
  • Carriers: there is no miracle solution

LONDON, Sept 24 (Reuters) – Britain’s retail industry warned the government on Friday that unless it acts to address a severe shortage of truckers within the next 10 days, major disruption was inevitable at the Christmas is approaching.

As the world’s fifth-largest economy emerges from COVID-19 shutdowns, a spike in natural gas prices in Europe and a post-Brexit shortage of lorry drivers have left Britain struggling with soaring energy prices and a potential food supply crisis.

BP (BP.L) had to close some of its service stations due to shortages of drivers while queues formed at some Shell (RDSa.L) stations as pumps dried up in some places. ExxonMobil’s Esso (XOM.N) said a small number of its 200 Tesco Alliance retail sites were also affected in some way. Read more

Join now for FREE unlimited access to


In a rush to refuel, drivers also lined up at some petrol stations in London and the county of Kent in southern England. Diesel ran out at a station visited by Reuters.

For months supermarkets, processors and farmers have warned that a shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers is straining supply chains, making it harder to get goods to shelves.

“Unless new engines are found within the next 10 days, it is inevitable that we will see significant disruption as we approach Christmas,” said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at British Retail Consortium, the retail industry lobby group. .

“Heavy-duty drivers are the glue that holds our supply chains together,” Opie said. “Without them, we cannot transport goods from farms to warehouses and stores.”

The next 10 days are crucial as retailers ramp up supply in October to ensure there is enough merchandise for the peak Christmas season.

Carriers and logistics companies have warned there is no quick fix and any changes to testing or visas are likely to be too late to ease pre-Christmas shortages as retailers pile up stock for months future.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has insisted there will be no return to the 1970s when Britain was touted by allies as ‘Europe’s sick man’ with weeks of three days, energy shortages and runaway inflation.


As ministers urged the public not to panic, some of Britain’s biggest supermarkets warned that the shortage of lorry drivers could lead to this before Christmas.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says Johnson, whom he met in New York, asked him for an ’emergency’ deal to supply a food item that is in short supply in Britain, although the British Embassy has disputed Bolsonaro’s story. Read more

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there was a global shortage of truckers after COVID halted lorry driver testing, so Britain was doubling the number of tests. When asked if the government would ease visa rules, he said the government would look at all options.

“We will do whatever it takes,” Shapps told Sky News. “We will leave no stone unturned to do all we can to ensure shortages are alleviated with HGV drivers.

“We should see it smoothing out pretty quickly,” he said.

British ministers are due to meet later on Friday to try to find a solution.


Trucking industry body the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has called on the government to allow short-term visas for international drivers to enter Britain and fill the void, while UK drivers are trained for the future.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Rod McKenzie, policy officer at the RHA, told Reuters. In the short term, he said, international drivers could help, although it may be too late to help Christmas, and in the longer term the industry needed better pay and conditions to attract drivers. workers.

“It’s hard work. We Brits don’t help truckers like Europeans and Americans do by giving them decent facilities,” he said.

Britain’s transport industry says it needs around 100,000 more drivers after 25,000 returned to Europe before Brexit and the pandemic halted the process of qualifying new workers.

Shapps, who said the driver shortage was not due to Brexit, said COVID-19 had exacerbated the problem as Britain was unable to test 40,000 drivers during lockdowns .

Join now for FREE unlimited access to


Additional reporting by Gerhard Mey, Kate Holton, Michael Holden and Paul Sandle; Written by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Toby Chopra and Nick Macfie

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


About Author

Comments are closed.