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WSTA lobbies government to solve HGV crisis

Published:  24 November, 2021

With Christmas almost upon us, the WSTA has called upon the UK government to take urgent action over HGV driver shortages and freight disruption to avoid “supply chain chaos” in December 2021 and beyond.

Last week, a letter was sent to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, signed by 48 of the UK’s leading distributors and importers. They included: Accolade Wines; Campari Group UK; Gonzalez Byass; Moët Hennessy UK, and Treasury Wine Estates. The letter drew attention to the ongoing crisis which has seen supply chains virtually collapse amidst escalating costs.

The WSTA decided to contact the government after receiving multiple reports from its membership that importing products now takes up to five times longer than it did a year ago.

According to the organisation, businesses that had previously been able to fulfil orders in two to three days are now experiencing shipments taking 15 days to process. Meanwhile, costs have increased around 7% (and often more) by freight forwarders to account for driver retention. This is particularly a concern for SMEs, which are unable to compete with large businesses to attract drivers.

Frustrated companies have found that drivers and vehicles are increasingly unpredictable in their arrival times, meaning goods are either not ready or are left waiting for collection.

The letter drafted by the WSTA advocated extending the temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers from 28 February 2022 for a minimum of one year, to ease the burden on industry and allow for a sufficient increase in domestic drivers.

In addition, it called upon the government to facilitate better routing of freight from ports (rail, river and coastal freight) and smaller UK-based driver networks for short-haul journeys, delivering government investment and working in partnership with industry to achieve this goal.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “There is mounting concern amongst our membership that unless urgent action is taken, we will fall deeper into delivery chaos. Forty eight member companies have put their name to our letter calling on the Transport Secretary to extend the temporary visa scheme and improve transport routes.

“We are already seeing major delays on wine and spirit delivery times which is pushing up costs and limiting the range of products available to UK consumers. Government needs to be doing all it can to ensure British business is not operating with one hand tied behind its back over the festive season and beyond.”