Lorry drivers allowed to work longer hours as pubs and restaurants report stock issues
The government has relaxed limits on lorry drivers' working hours after hospitality and retail businesses reported issues receiving stock.
Pub and restaurant owners told the Caterer they have seen price rises and last-minute changes to delivery times due to a shortage of drivers.
There is a shortfall of around 70,000 trained HGV drivers, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), with many suppliers seeing EU staff return home during the pandemic.
From Monday (12 July) drivers can temporarily increase their daily driving limit from nine to 10 hours, and do 11 hours twice a week, or change their rest patterns.
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors said the move would prevent a "catastrophic supply chain failure" and allow up to 15% more deliveries a day.
However, the RHA warned the extension was only a "sticking plaster" that made the job "less attractive" and failed to address the shortfall of drivers.
It comes after wholesalers warned hospitality operators could struggle to meet demand beyond 19 July, when it is expected all coronavirus restrictions will end in England.
Pub and restaurant owners facing their own staff shortages have said the uncertainty is exacerbating the issue.
Michelle Utz, owner of the Hoop, a pub in Stock, Essex, said: "Our linen company is struggling for delivery drivers after Brexit and have said their prices are going up.
"Companies have phoned up saying they don't have any drivers, so we won't get the orders we need. It means we're running around trying to prep in the kitchen at the last minute."
Graham Harris, chief financial officer at East London Pub Co, said suppliers were having "the same problem" as hospitality in recruiting.
He added that uncertainty over delivery times was creating added costs in terms of staff rotas. "You can put a team on to take a delivery from 7am, then it doesn't turn up, so we have to put another team on the next day. It's an extra cost on top of the shortages."
The Catererpreviously reported that some of the UK's biggest foodservice suppliers, such as Bidfood and Brakes, had warned customers including schools that they were unable to fulfil food orders due to a lack of drivers.
The government has been meeting with industry figures to discuss the issue. Transport secretary Grant Shapps tweeted the number of driving tests available had been "ramped up" and ministers will consider "other measures" to address the problem.
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