The East Midlands Chamber of Commerce has issued a strong warning to the Government and warned of “serious damage” to local businesses as the fuel shortage continues.
The Chamber says temporary visas for foreign drivers is just “sticking a tiny plaster on a gaping wound” and says driver shortages is not a new problem in this country.
In the East Midlands, in fact, one haulage firm in June said it had lorries stuck at its site as it was unable to find drivers.
They have warned it could be another grim Christmas for businesses and their customers this year without further action from the Government.
East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “While we welcome the Government’s intervention to offer temporary visas for 5,000 foreign lorry drivers and to suspend competition law between oil firms, this is merely sticking a tiny plaster on a gaping wound.
“The issue of HGV driver shortages existed long before Brexit and Covid-19, with the logistics industry losing workers to retirement and other sectors, while struggling to attract younger employees.
“But the reality of an estimated 25,000 European drivers returning home this year has left a huge hole in capacity, with the issue now exacerbated by driver training and testing being halted for more than a year due to the pandemic.
“The fuel shortage has brought all these complex supply chain issues to a head, but other sectors had already been feeling the impact in recent months, including in retail where shelves are noticeably short of usual stock.
“The common thread here is that demand is returning strongly – footfall is up in town and city centre high streets, and more people are using their cars again, which together are boosting hard-hit sectors like retail, hospitality and leisure – and this is outstripping the capacity to supply.
“Ultimately, policymakers have taken for granted how supply chains work and failed to heed the warning signs that have been flashing for some time.
“For example, a haulage firm in East Midlands Chamber membership told us in June it had lorries sat on the tarmac because it couldn’t find enough drivers, so this is by no means a temporary problem that will be solved overnight.
“Government should be prepared to significantly expand the number of visas issued within this scheme and convene a summit that brings business and decision-makers together to find both immediate and longer-term solutions to the many challenges facing firms throughout the UK.
“Without further action, we now face the very real prospect of serious damage to our economic recovery, stifled growth, and another less than happy Christmas for many businesses and their customers across the country.”
Businesses across Nottinghamshire are now having to deal with the shortage of fuel, which is having an effect on how they operate.
Richard Montgomery, manager of pallet delivery company Mitchell’s of Mansfield, told Nottinghamshire Live: “As a local haulier the fuel crisis is affecting our own employees and there ability to get to and from work, the fuel stations in our area remain gridlocked with traffic.
“Our ability to keep delivering is currently unaffected providing we continue to receive regular tanker deliveries.
“I am assured by our local supplier that they have no issue with tanker deliveries. It’s not the first fuel crisis we have experienced – we saw the same in 2000.
“You can’t blame the public for what appears to be panic buying, everyone has a requirement for fuel and if you have queued for 40 minutes to get fuel then obviously its likely you dispense more than you need hoping to not have to suffer the queue again.
“I do believe in these instances that fuel stations should take a more responsible approach and limit each delivery of fuel to may be 30 litres to allow better traffic management around the site and everyone to get at least some fuel.”