Dairy UK called on the Government to heed existing calls made to help resolve the shortage of drivers.
This included clearing the backlog of HGV tests that currently exists, protecting HGV drivers from isolation requirements, bringing forward skilled worker visas for HGV drivers and dairy processing staff to help recruit staff and to promote HGV driving as a fundamental lifeblood of the UK economy.
Dairy UK chief executive Judith Bryans said: “The dairy sector is working around the clock to implement any and all solutions open to it in addressing the shortage of drivers.
“These measures would be far more effective than continued relaxation of drivers’ hours, which is not the answer to the shortage we are seeing, and could become a safety issue for the existing pool of drivers.”
The mass outbreak of self-isolation incidents due to the NHS COVID-19 track and Trace app – dubbed the ‘pingdemic’ – has caused major disruption to the industry. 2 Sisters president Ranjit Singh Boparan has warned it could lead to the worst food shortages in 75 years.
“Like many other sectors of the economy, dairy processors are seeing increased staff absence rates as a result of staff having to isolate as a result of notification through the NHS Covid app,” Bryans added. “Such elevated staff absence rates are a cause for concern and are impacting businesses.
“It is hoped that between the exemption and testing schemes as well as the relaxation of isolation requirements coming mid-August – that absence rates will be reduced, and business can return to normal. This is an evolving situation that the sector will continue to monitor closely.”