Soldiers are set to be drafted in to keep pints flowing at Britain’s bars amid a trucker shortage.
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors says the nation’s lack of lorry drivers is so severe troops must immediately be put on standby to ship food and drink to shops, restaurants, pubs and care homes.
Chief executive of the group James Bielby warned: “The situation has reached crisis point and it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases.
“The Government needs to act very quickly.
“We are concerned enough to suggest that the government considers having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.”
Mr Bielby estimates Britain is facing a shortfall of 70,000 heavy goods vehicle drivers – leaving masses of quality produce rotting in warehouses and being dumped when it passes sell-by dates.
The Road Haulage Association said the emergency-level shortage has been triggered by Covid as no new HGV drivers have been trained for a year during the UK’s lockdowns.
It says Brexit is also to blame as it’s sent numbers of European truckers working in Britain plummeting.
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Pub and restaurant chains are already not getting enough fresh produce delivered to meet demand, with supplies of beer, milk and chilled products hit.
The government had extended the hours professional drivers are allowed behind the wheel during the pandemic but this has ended.
Local convenience stores have taken to putting signs in windows warning customers of shortages.
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One erected in the window of a Budgens in Great Blakenham near Ipswich, Suffolk, reads: ‘Due to a national shortage of delivery drivers we are experiencing cancellations in deliveries resulting in low stock around the store. Thank you for patience and support.’
Dairy giant Arla warned shortages will hit punters’ sunshine fun, saying: “There is a real crunch this summer because of Covid causing a backlog of new drivers passing their tests, changes to tax rules, some drivers from EU countries returning home, some others on furlough and other factors.”
Tim O’Malley, managing director of fruit and veg supplier Nationwide Produce, said: “The acute shortage of HGV drivers is now the direct cause of perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in cold stores, waiting for wheels to go under it.
“Supermarket shelves and restaurant plates are going empty, and this is now a crisis of national importance.”
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