Fuel shortages: HGV drivers saw issue coming years ago and ‘worst still to come’

HGV drivers said years of poor recruitment and subpar treatment of drivers have led to current shortage

Thomas Kingsley
Wednesday 29 September 2021 08:19
Boris Johnson urges people not to panic buy amid fuel crisis

Lorry drivers have warned that the worst of supply shortages in the UK is still to come.

Petrol stations across the nation are the latest to be hit by HGV driver shortages, leading to widespread disruption as supermarkets continue to have empty shelves.

HGV driver Jason Garland told The Independent that Christmas will reveal the worst of the crisis when demand for food and goods spikes.

“I don’t think the problem has come to light yet,” Mr Garland said.

He added: “Christmas is going to be the biggest problem because people will be bulk buying their food for family dinners and then you’ve also got the likes of Amazon and big online retailers that will be moving a lot more than they’re moving now.”

HGV driver Jason Garland said the worst of shortages is still to come

Mr Garland, who has worked in the HGV sector for five years, said customers can expect to see delays in transportation, with options such as next-day deliveries not being as readily available.

‘This hasn’t happened overnight’

HGV driver Jon Clarke said the shortage of drivers has been years in the making. The driver of 14 years said poor conditions and a lack of investment forced people out of the industry without recruiting younger staff into the sector.

“This hasn't happened overnight, anyone who does the job will tell you we all saw it coming a long time ago,” Mr Clarke told The Independent. “This has been coming for years,” he added.

Mr Clarke, who drives lorries across mainland Europe, said treatment and pay of HGV drivers has made the job unappealing. He argued that while the public has been in an uproar about rising HGV driver salaries, up until recently, his wage had been the same for 10 years.

He also lamented the poor facilities available for drivers in the UK.

“Parking in any of the service stations in the UK is £30-plus a night if you can get in. The facilities are dire, you can’t get anything proper to eat apart from takeaway food and you’ve got showers I wouldn’t wash my dog in – until the infrastructure is there you’re not going to entice people into it as a career,” he said.

Brexit, coronavirus and people leaving the industry created a “perfect storm” Mr Clarke added, but he insisted the government was warned about driver depletions for a decade and didn’t do enough.

“All the countries are short of drivers. Make it an appealing career, make it so you give grants to people who are genuinely interested. There are people out there who are interested but can’t afford it. Make grants available for them,” Mr Clarke said.

‘The worst will be seen at Christmas’

Krzysztof Turkowski, who has been in the HGV sector for half a decade, also stressed that the worst of the shortages is still to come.

“It will only get worse before it gets better, but people panic buying doesn’t help in any form,” Mr Turkowski told The Independent.

“I think the worst will be seen at Christmas,” he added.

On reasons behind the disruptive shortages, MrTurkowski also agreed that a lack of investment in recruitment and poor treatment of drivers led to the deficit. He added that confusion around Brexit caused many of his Polish friends to return home.

He said drivers didn’t receive proper recognition for a job working “60 to 70 hours a week” and that workers were only heroes when needed but “as soon as the shortage is over you’re a nuisance.”

Days of panic buying has left many without fuel as forecourts across the nation are forced to close after running out of fuel.

The British Medical Association called on the government to provide extra support for key workers to access fuel as disruptions risk impeding care delivery across the NHS.

A spokesperson at the Department for Transport said, “We are taking a range of steps to support the industry, including streamlining the process for new HGV drivers and increasing the number of driving tests. Progress has already been made in testing and hiring, with improving pay, working conditions and diversity.”

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