'You cannot get labour for love nor money' - West Sussex businesses suffering due to 'nightmare' lorry driver shortages

"There is a labour shortage and it is having a huge impact on the hospitality industry as a whole — that’s of huge concern."

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 4:51 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 4:59 pm

West Sussex businesses have been having their say about a workforce crisis affecting the whole of the county.

There is a growing crisis of fresh food supplies rotting due to a shortage of lorry drivers in the UK. Experts have warned that supermarket shelves could sit empty in the coming months.

Oliver Rudland, from the Chichester Food & Drink company, said: “We are concerned about food waste on any level.

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

"There is a labour shortage and it is having a huge impact on the hospitality industry as a whole — that’s of huge concern.”

Matthew Higgs, the joint-owner of new Chichester business Dell Quay PYO Strawberries, also runs a local marquee contractor company.

He said: "We cannot get labour. You cannot get labour for love nor money.

"Some Eastern Europeans are on furlough and don’t want to come here because of Covid-19. It’s a double nightmare.

Matthew Higgs at the new 'pick your own' fruit farm near Chichester. Picture: Steve Robards SR2106211 SUS-210621-172317001

"One of the reasons we chose pick your own [for the new business] is because of this employment situation."

Arun District Council's contractors, Biffa, has delayed its Green Waste Club collection due to the crisis.

Managing director Roger Edwards said: “We apologise for the inconvenience caused to customers due to the temporary suspension of our Green Waste Club service.

"Frustratingly, this is due to the well-documented wider national shortage of HGV drivers that was caused in particular by the lack of training and testing during the pandemic.

"We are currently training new drivers so that they are able to carry out the Green Waste Club service, as well as taking positive steps to attract and recruit drivers.

"We are doing everything we can to restart collections from July 5. Once the service has resumed, we will collect up to three extra bags of garden waste per customer for the next two collections to compensate for missed collections.”

Chichester lorry driver Kevin Puleston appeared on Good Morning Britain earlier this month.

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

John Hall, from the West Sussex Growers’ Association, said 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'. Read more here

'This was inevitable'

The general public, including a number of current and former lorry drivers, have commented about the situation on social media.

"This was inevitable when they brought in CPC testing," wrote Paul Batty.

"Many older drivers were not keen to do this and have retired early or moved on to something else.

"And it has been made stupidly hard and expensive for new drivers."

Adrian Chadburn said 'many would like to become HGV drivers' but 'costs are too great'. He added: "Too many HGV drivers are forced to do too many hours at low wages."

Martin Botting agreed. He wrote: "The industry should start paying a suitable wage for the responsibility of driving these vehicles. I was earning £10 per hour in the nineties and wages for drivers are now around the same."

Chris Mason said lorry driving is not an 'attractive job' for younger people, 'especially factoring in the cost of a licence'.

He added: "Hauliers relied on cheap labour from the EU. This drove down the wages and conditions for UK drivers who left the industry in droves."

Michael Epstein said the 'temptation to cut wages' and bringing in 'cheap, foreign labour' has now had an impact.

"Many former drivers left the trade and it is far too expensive for them to re-qualify and drive again," he said. "The other issue must be with all the traffic restrictions, and lack of facilities. It can't be a pleasant job to do."

Tracey Barker took a different stance with her comment: "Perhaps if we treated lorry drivers better we wouldn't be in this situation."