View from HQ: Is the problem really too few HGV drivers?
Here’s a novel thing: I’m sat on a plane writing this piece. Hard to believe, I know, and therefore this is most definitely a landmark day. And not just because I am 33,000 feet in the air for the first time in two years. The fact that I had to hot foot it from a bustling Olympia to catch my flight is cause for celebration..
It’s good news that the first trade show since March 2019 was well-attended and buoyant. It was great to be back at the Fair with thousands of food & drink people and products. Sampling, debating, selling, tasting, educating. All the elements were there and despite some shared anxiety, it all aligned.
There was, of course, plenty of protocol to get into the show and to get on this flight. But we’re used to this now, right? We’re having to run our businesses under the heavy hand of legislation, rules and most definitely, at a distance.
Rest assured, the traffic speed in London seems to be back to its lethargic worst. The bus to Heathrow was tiresome with – despite the driver shortage – an inordinate number of lorries blocking Hammersmith Road.
And the lack of truckers was a major discussion point at the show. Are the complex, just-in-time logistics of the multiples in danger of completely unravelling this Christmas? Another opportunity for independents. Our shorter, local and ‘less sophisticated’ supply chains should hold up, meaning our shelves will be stocked for the biggest six weeks of the year. Granted, we may be missing some firm favourites this December as the bureaucracy and border controls continue to disrupt our Continental cheese and charcuterie imports but this chaos could yet play into our favour.
All the talk across the media is, yet again, of empty shelves in the retail giants. We may well need more Eddie Stobart drivers but for me, the question we should be asking in the year of COP26 is this: Are there too many supermarkets and discounters to deliver to, rather than not enough lorry drivers?
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