Report: UK Government puts army lorry drivers on standby as driver shortage continues
According to a report from a major British tabloid newspaper, the UK Government has put army personnel with a HGV licence on a “five-day standby notice". The Sun on Sunday says the army drivers will be used to deliver food, medicine and other essential supplies.
The report comes around two months after James Bielby, Chief Executive of the UK’s Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD), told the government to use the army in order to help with the country’s supply chain challenges.
According to the Daily Mail, Mr Bielby told ministers in June that the FWD was concerned enough by the shortage that it suggested the UK Government use the army:
“We are concerned enough to suggest that the government considers having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.’ FWD members supply food and drink to independent shops, restaurants, pubs, hotels and care homes. With the estimated 70,000 shortfall in HGV drivers, some wholesalers have had to limit the number of deliveries they make to convenience stores which has led to some availability issues. The product manufacturers who supply into the wholesale channel have similar issues with drivers, and our members reporting particular difficulties getting soft drinks, beer, and chilled products like cream, cheese, yoghurt and meats.”
At the time, a number of observers thought that Mr Bielby’s proposal was a little over the top. However, if the report in today’s Sun on Sunday is to be believed, it appears that the FWD’s wish may be about to come to fruition.
A source told The Sun on Sunday:
“Messages are being sent out to all Army personnel with HGV qualifications. They are being put on five-day standby notice for driving jobs at major distribution centres around the country. Soldiers will be put up in hotels where necessary and will be working extended hours to assist with the crisis. They will be involved with food distribution as well as the transportation of other essential goods and medical supplies.”
The Sun reports that the action plan is to be conducted under the name “Operation Rescript”, which has been used for operations that are part of the British military’s response to coronavirus.
The newspaper’s unnamed source reportedly said: “HGV drivers in the Royal Logistics Corps have been told they are on five days’ notice. The call is expected by the end of September.”
Responding to the story, Rod McKenzie, the RHA’s managing director of policy and public affairs, told the Sun that using the army “not a good idea”. Explaining his position, McKenzie said that the army’s pool of 2,000 drivers is nowhere near enough to gap the shortage. He also argued that army truck drivers are not accustomed to driving the type of lorries that are typically used to transport goods.
Photo credit: media.defense.gov