Haulage firms across the east are facing a serious shortfall of drivers

  • Watch a report from ITV Anglia's Hannah Pettifer

Haulage firms across the east are facing a serious shortfall of drivers thanks to a combination of Covid, Brexit and other factors.

The boss of Cambridgeshire based transport company Turner's of Soham says its workforce is down by 10% and the shortage of lorry drivers is costing them half a million pounds a week in lost revenue.

The shortage of lorry drivers also means his company are not being able to deliver some products.

Last month supermarkets warned the UK could face a summer of food shortages due to a loss of HGV drivers to transport goods to the shelves.

The Road Haulage Association estimates there is a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK.

Paul Day, Managing Director, Turner's of Soham said: "Fundamentally there are not enough drivers within the UK to cover the amount of work of transport movements that is required by economy and country.... there are some products that are now not being delivered at all and it reduces the supply in the country, two months ago I said this would be economy limiting and it's already there."

There could be serious disruption to food supplies, the government was told, if they did not act to address the shortage of HGV drivers Credit: PA Images

Turners of Soham also told ITV Anglia there's a shortage of young people coming into the industry. 

Aaron Coates started learning to be a lorry driver back in December.

He said: "I wanted something a bit more concrete, a qualification I can carry with me for a longer amount of time, the world's always going to need transportation of kinds so it seemed a sensible choice to go to."

Now 8 months on, he's almost fully qualified. But it's a process that should have only taken half that time.

Lockdown has created a huge backlog of driving tests, with some learners waiting up to 12 weeks to book a test.

The Government has announced a temporary extension to lorry drivers' hours from Monday July 12th, amid a shortage of workers. Credit: PA Images

Robert Young, Training Manager at Turner's of Soham said: "Throughout the year we look at approximately 15 to 20 new candidates coming through looking to obtain their licence.... last year we had 4."

"The programme that should last 4 to 5 months, two of the blokes have been here for a year before they actually got theirs, everything was lockdown."

Turners of Soham has now condensed its training courses so that a driver can be fully qualified within three months. But the extent of the driver shortage means this will have little short-term impact.

The pandemic also forced many European drivers to go home when travel became increasingly restricted last year.

Brexit is another reason for the shortfall as many European drivers decided to leave the UK and work elsewhere.

The transport industry has met with the government to discuss potential solutions to the shortage including putting drivers on the shortage occupation list - making it easier to bring in recruits from overseas and a temporary extension to lorry drivers' hours from Monday July 12th.

But in the meantime, there are warnings of a summer of food shortages with fewer drivers able to deliver the goods.