Chichester lorry driver shortage will have 'detrimental impact' on livelihoods - and supermarket shelves

Experts have warned that supermarket shelves could sit empty in the coming months due to a national workforce shortage.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 12:58 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 1:00 pm

There is a growing crisis of fresh food supplies rotting due to a shortage of lorry drivers in the UK.

Kevin Puleston, the owner of Gela Freight Services, appeared on Good Morning Britain from an industrial unit off the A27 Chichester Bypass last week.

He said he has lost half of his workforce, due to the impact of Brexit and the pandemic.

Mr Puleston said he had never seen anything like it during his 45 years in the industry, adding: “I run five vehicles and I’m three drivers down. It’s crazy.”

Speaking to the Observer, he continued: “We are just trying to find out how we are going to deal with it but we just don’t know at the minute.

“We advertise [for jobs] but we get no response.

“Everyone I speak to on a daily basis say they are struggling to get drivers. We are all in the same boat and it’s only going to get worse at the moment.

Kevin Puleston, the owner of Gela Freight Services, appeared on Good Morning Britain from an industrial unit off the A27 Chichester Bypass last week. Photo: GMB/ITV
Kevin Puleston, the owner of Gela Freight Services, appeared on Good Morning Britain from an industrial unit off the A27 Chichester Bypass last week. Photo: GMB/ITV

“I think there will be [a shortage on supermarket shelves].”

Chichester-based charity UK Harvest said the crisis is ‘forcing a dramatic increase on the amount of food unnecessarily wasted’.

A spokesperson added: “This has a detrimental impact on not only the environment but the livelihoods of so many.

“However, we at UK Harvest, are in a prime position to help avoid food going to waste through our food redistribution operation. We collect food across Southern England, and work with over 350 charities to ensure perfectly edible food reaches those who need it most.”

John Hall, from the West Sussex Growers’ Association, said it is a ‘very challenging’ nationwide problem.

He added: “We are lobbying ministers and the government to allow more seasonal agriculture workers to come into the country.

“There used to be an allowance.

“There’s a lot of money being spent on advertising for local people to get into the industry but that seems to be a big problem.

“There’s also a great deal of money on automation, to reduce the requirements on workers.”

GMB reporter Richard Gaisford said the crisis has been caused by 'a perfect storm' of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Fresh produce supplier Tim O'Malley said: "It's going to get worse before it gets better. September through to Christmas, we are going to have problems.

"Tens of thousands of drivers are needed.

"There will be a shortage on supermarket shelves in coming months."