December 7, 2021

Wine and spirit businesses call time on HGV driver shortage crisis

In an attempt to avoid some of our favourite tipples from disappearing from the UK supermarket shelves, concerned members of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association have called on the Transport Secretary to take urgent action over HGV driver shortages and freight disruption.

After rising costs and supply chain chaos have held up wine and spirit deliveries, 49 of the UK’s wine and spirit businesses put their names to a letter, penned by the WSTA and sent last week.

The WSTA has received multiple reports from its membership, who are highlighting that importing products is now taking up to five times longer than they were a year ago. Businesses that had previously been able to fulfil orders in two to three days, are now experiencing shipments taking 15 days to process.

Costs have increased around 7% (and often more) by freight forwarders to account for driver retention. This is a particular a concern for SMEs that 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.

As a particularly competitive industry, the inability to fulfil orders in a timely manner can result in the loss of business, as products can be easily replaced by comparable products from elsewhere in the world.

The WSTA and its members are calling on Government to take action as a matter of urgency to save British business from descending even further into delivery chaos. In the letter the trade association told Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, it was imperative that he take the following steps:

1. Extend the temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers from 28th February 2022 to a minimum of one year, to ease the burden on industry and allow for a sufficient increase in domestic drivers.

2. Actively facilitate better routing of freight from ports (e.g., rail, river, 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.

3. Deliver regular updates on DVLA processing HGV driving tests and licences.

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. 48 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.”