Calls to import drivers as HGV shortage gets serious – and pubs run out of beer

Nusrat Ghani
RUNNING DRY: Wetherspoon’s in Tunbridge Wells

Logistics UK in St John’s Road made their appeal to government as the pub trade became the latest industry to be hit by lack of drivers.

Last week JD Wetherspoon, which runs the Opera House in Tunbridge Wells and The Humphrey Bean in Tonbridge, as well as the Crowborough Cross, had to apologise to its customers after a number of beers ran dry.

The hospitality giant said it has seen supplies of Carling and Coors beer hit by the driver shortage that has already affected a range of industries, with some pubs not receiving deliveries.

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are experiencing some supply problems with both Carling and Coors, which means that some pubs do not have the products available.

“We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused. We know that the brewers are trying to resolve the issue.”

Molson Coors, the brewer for both brands, admitted it had been hit by the driver shortfall but said the problem was ‘intermittent’.

A spokesman added: “Like many in our great British brewing and pub sector we have been hit by the HGV driver shortage.

“While overall our availability is good, there are intermittent pockets of pressure in our supply network that are unfortunately affecting a number of Wetherspoons pubs.

“We’re working around the clock with our customers and third-party logistics partners to ensure we minimise any impact to our customers.

“After such a difficult period for our industry, it’s heartbreaking to be letting any customer down and we will continue to do everything in our power to get our much-loved brands back on every Wetherspoons bar.”

The lorry driver shortage, which has been attributed to Brexit employment rules and the pandemic, has already impacted supplies at supermarkets and a number of fast food chains.

Refuse collections in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge have also been heavily affected, with garden waste services suspended since July.

Logistics UK, which represents hauliers and others in the UK’s freight industry, said there was a shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers in the UK, and that 14,000 drivers from Europe left employment in the UK in the year to June 2020.

The organisation is now calling on the government to give thousands of EU drivers temporary visas to plug the gap.

As Alex Veitch, General Manager of Public Policy at Logistics UK, said: “The EU workers who left the UK in the year ending June 2020, ahead of Brexit, were critical to the supply chain’s resilience.

“And we are now starting to see the impact that their departure has had on supplies to businesses, retailers, homes and schools.

“The industry is working hard to recruit new drivers, with the implementation of new apprenticeships and other training schemes, and working with DVSA [Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency] to speed up its testing regime, but these measures will take some time to produce new drivers.

“Our industry needs drivers now, and we are urging government to replicate its temporary visa scheme, introduced for agricultural workers, for logistics to keep trucks and vans moving in the short term.”

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