According to the Road Haulage Association, there is currently a shortfall of 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK. Across mainland Europe, the estimated shortfall is 400,000 drivers. There are numerous reasons for this - the impact of covid, poor pay and conditions for drivers, Brexit and increasing demand. This is not a situation that will improve quickly, and it is causing delay and disruption to the supply chain and, as a result, increasing transport costs. Prices have increased with the reduced availability for existing road freight, and rates are inevitably passed on to customers.
Problems in the supply chain caused by HGV shortage
The driver shortage has inevitably had an impact throughout the supply chain. There might not be an issue with shipping, but there may be problems getting it to and from the port by road. We try and book road transport as early as possible, but if a ship is delayed for any reason, and the road freight needs to be rebooked, it may be difficult to find road transport at short notice. It is more important than ever to keep a very close eye on any changes or delays to ships, as there will be a knock on effect when the goods reach their destination port. There may be an additional requirement for cargo to be kept in storage at a port whilst waiting for road transport. This will also impact the cost.
Our recommendations - How to avoid problems
Our number one suggestion is for our customers to plan ahead more - the more time you allow for the delivery, the more contingency can be added if things do go wrong. It is more difficult to find last minute slots for road freight, and if your ship is delayed for any reason, there is some breathing space to rearrange things.
Be more flexible
Secondly, we recommend a more flexible approach. Be prepared to change your approach, dates and method of transport if necessary. Over the past year we have experienced a fast changing situation and have to prepare our customers to change their plans to react to this. We will always talk our customers through the situation and any changes required.
One suggestion is be open to delivered in the afternoon. Most business prefer AM deliveries as the timing of these can be more accurate. But if you can take delivery in the afternoon and be flexible on the time this may give you more options on your transport days.
Look at other options for transport
We have advised customers to switch to sea freight if their goods are going to or from Europe. Shipping goods to a port close by to both the place of origin and destination means less room for delays, as there is only a short journey by road at each end. It is also cheaper by sea and there is more availability.
The shortage of HGV drivers is a situation that will be with us for some time as there is no ‘quick fix’ to the problem. At TWard we believe in being honest with our customers, and we will discuss your options, costs and possible issues up front. By booking early, remaining flexible and being prepared to look at alternative options, we will ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.