HGV shortage hits the South's supermarkets as haulage firm describes 'heartbreak'

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Food shortages and waste collections delayed - the impact of a national shortage of HGV drivers is starting to be felt in the South.

Haulage firms fear the problem will take months to get on top of with Covid, Brexit and the 'pingdemic', where people are being notified of being in contact with somebody who tests positive for the virus, being blamed.

There's also a huge backlog at driving test centres adding to the problems.

  • Watch: 'It's heartbreaking' - a haulier from Southampton and Sittingbourne talk about the impact of the driver shortage

Meachers Global Logistics in Southampton is in need of 12 drivers while Nicholls Transport in Sittingbourne require between 20 and 30 drivers.

The Road Haulage Association estimates that nationally around 100,000 drivers are needed.

The problems though pre-date the pandemic and there has been driver shortages for years.

Peter Kohn is an HGV instructor. To drive a large class one vehicle his pupils need to pass their class two tests but before 1997 this was not the case.

He thinks this change has had an impact ever since with it now costing learners thousands of pounds to receive their licence.

"It's very serious I've been in this industry fro 30 years and it has been getting worse and worse but now it is just impossible."

Getting a test though is also proving difficult, ITV News Meridian has seen the first availability at sites such as Gillingham, Hastings and Guildford to be at the end of September.

Waste collections services at a number of local authorities have been affected including Tonbridge & Malling, Southampton, Havant, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and Arun.

Cllr Catherine Webber, Vale of White Horse council, says,

"We would really like to express our apologies for all this inconvenience. The skeleton crews are working really hard to try and complete a round but they very often don't so they have to go back the next day which means they start the next round later."

Councillor Alex Rennie, leader of Havant Council says,

"We're now finding when we put vacancies it lasts some time before we can fill that role. It's challenging...because of the national shortage...we're many people trying to compete for that labour."

Councillor Piers Montague Tonbridge & Malling Council, says,

"The fear is that it could get worse before it gets better. On top of the shortage of drivers we've got residents like you and me ordering more and more online. So we've got high demand and low numbers of drivers and I think as we take the run up to Christmas it could become a real problem."

  • Watch: is your council facing difficulties with rubbish collections?

Government tells logistics sector 'challenges are serious'

The Government has written to the logistics sector telling them it knows the challenges are serious, that measures are being put in place to maximise testing capacity and that it's reviewing proposals for financial support.

The number of hours HGV drivers are allowed to legally work has also been increased from nine to ten each day.

The logistics sector fears it could be months or even years before the problems are fully resolved.