A group of MPs has launched a special inquiry examining heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver availability as food distributors warn supply chain disruption will intensify in the run up to Easter.
Chaired by Matt Vickers MP, the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Food and Drink Supply Chain will hear from organisations supplying food and drink into schools, hospitals and care homes, as well as pubs, restaurants and retail settings, FWD reported on Thursday (17).
The APPG will examine the severity of the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK, the challenges the businesses are coming across in recruiting drivers, the steps the government has and should be taking to support the sector, and the issue’s impact on the price and availability of food.
The inquiry will happen over the next month and will provide a series of recommendations to the government ahead of the suspected demand peak in April.
“The food and drink supply chain plays a vital role in our daily life but many of the businesses providing these important services are hidden from the public’s view,” Chair of the APPG, Matt Vickers MP, said.
“Our group and inquiry will serve to shine a light on the issues facing these companies carrying out vital work to keep our nation fed.
“The labour shortages last year served to demonstrate just how it important it is that the sector is adequately equipped and the dire consequences which follow when there is a breakdown in the supply chain.
“We want to understand the extent to which these supply chain issues are still plaguing the sector and determine the best policy options available to mitigate any potential issues.”
Meanwhile, new research from Logistics UK claims that “the number of HGV drivers in the marketplace appears to be stabilising”.
While there were 49,000 fewer HGV drivers in the workforce in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, there has been a surge in testing by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in recent months.
According to Logistics UK’s figures, 27,144 HGV vocational tests were undertaken in the last quarter of 2021, representing a 53.5 percent increase compared with the same period in 2019.
Office of National Statistics (ONS) data released on Wednesday (16) also showed a gain in the number of drivers under 45 years of age – under-45s now represent 37 percent of HGV drivers compared with 33.6 percent two years ago.