Published: 18:09, 13 September 2021
| Updated: 18:27, 13 September 2021
Transport minister Grant Shapps says he cannot promise that there won’t be a shortage of goods in shops at Christmas but has insisted that everything is being done to get more hauliers tested and on the road.
Mr Shapps was answering questions in the House of Commons about the ongoing shortage of lorry drivers. It coincides with an announcement from the government that more HGV tests will be made available each year primarily by shortening the application process and the tests themselves.
Asked by MPs if could guarantee that there would not be shortages and empty shelves at Christmas, he said: “What I can guarantee is that we will do everything we possibly can to enable more HGV drivers to pass their tests to get onto the road (and) to have better conditions and the raft of other measures that we've discussed. But the whole solution unfortunately is not in our hands.
"This is a global situation that's been described, many times during this debate and we've seen the figures from Poland of 120,000 shortage for example, so it is a global problem that we will work night and day to do everything that we can to secure supply, but all the answers do not lie in the hands of the government to do that.”
In a written statement to the House of Commons, Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the government would now “overhaul regulations to boost capacity”.
He emphasised that the shortage of drivers was a global issue with companies adjusting to supply chain changes.
And he said it was important that facilities at overnight truck stops improved.
“We are working terribly hard to get consumers what they need. The number of vocational HGV tests has gone up from 2,000 a week to 3,000 a week - that’s a 50% increase.”
According to the plans, car drivers will no longer need to take a separate test to tow a trailer or caravan. The government said it should allow roughly 30,000 more HGV tests to be conducted every year.
In addition, tests are to be made shorter by removing several elements and having them tested separately by a third party.
To make around 20,000 more HGV driving tests available every year, drivers will now be able to get a licence to drive an articulated vehicle without first getting one for a smaller vehicle.
But Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said that the just-in-time supply system may never work again, resulting in “permanent shortages”.
“We are working terribly hard to get consumers what they need..."
He said: “The result of the labour shortages is the just-in-time system that has sustained supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants so that food has arrived on shelves or in kitchens just when you need it, is no longer working, and I don’t think it will work again.
"We are now in for permanent shortages.”