HGV driver crisis could cause rising food prices and shortages, minister warns
Lesley Griffiths MS has expressed ‘significant concerns’ about the potentially ‘far reaching’ consequences of the HGV driver shortage.
The Minister for Rural Affairs warns of further supply chain disruption and possible food price inflation unless the UK Government tackles the issue.
She describes frustration with the UK Government’s approach and a failure to add HGV drivers to the Home Office’s Skills Shortage Occupation list.
In a written update to Senedd members, she says: “The food chain is being impacted by staff shortages across the chain and the shortage of HGV drivers is of significant concern.”
The Wrexham MS said the crisis was caused by a combination of factors including Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and changes to the tax status of self-employed hauliers.
She stated: “The consequences of a driver shortage are far-reaching and can contribute to more food waste and disruption of food supplies into food charities.
“There is upward pressure on driver wages which is likely to filter through to food price inflation.”
The driver shortages in Wales have been described as the worst experienced for the past 50 years with many supermarkets struggling to fill shelves.
The UK Government is reported to be considering calling in the army to try and alleviate the situation with an estimated UK-wide shortfall of 100,000 HGV drivers.
Lesley Griffiths says she met with UK Environment Secretary George Eustice in July and expressed ‘frustration’ with his attitude that problems should be ‘largely resolved the industry’.
Since the meeting, she said the situation had improved with the UK Government having increased the speed of HGV license testing and relaxed some of the rules on driver hours.
But she says the solutions to the ongoing problems remain with the UK Government, including their policies on immigration.
“The resolution of the problem of a shortage of HGV drivers and wider food chain worker shortages is largely the responsibility of the UK Government, including its immigration rules,” she stated.
“The Welsh Government is doing all it can to alleviate the situation including being the first UK nation to remove the contact tracing isolation requirement on 7 August for twice vaccinated individuals.
She said that the ‘pingdemic’ did not appear to have been a major cause of disruption and praised the Welsh public for not having resorted to panic buying.