Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, warned there was a growing danger of empty shelves at Christmas because of the near 100,000 shortfall in the number of drivers.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the company is routinely having to cancel up to 30 or 40 deliveries a day, with up to 100 stores being left short of bread and other staples and stocks of soft drinks only about 50 per cent of normal.
He added: “The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we have already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute and I would hate this one to be problematic as well.”
Mr Walker blamed the Brexit fallout for the supply chain crisis but called it a “self inflicted wound” because the Government had failed to understand the importance of drivers. He said: “The simple solution is for HGV lorry drivers to be added to the essential and skilled worker list like other professions such as ballerinas. These HGV drivers kept the show on the road for 18 months during the pandemic and it is criminal that we are not viewing them as skilled workers.”
His comments came after the CBI said major retailers’ stock levels were at their lowest since records began in 1983.
McDonald’s has had to remove milkshakes and bottled drinks from its menus and Nando’s announced the temporary closure of 45 outlets because of a shortage of chicken.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the Government’s performance. He told LBC’s Nick Ferrari: “What we’re doing is streamlining the process to get more UK and other people being able to man those HGVs.
“So we’ll deal with the HGV situation. I think the Department for Transport have got a good grip on that.”
The Government has announced that longer lorries that reduce the overall number of freight journeys could be on UK roads next year.
Longer semi-trailers — up to 2.05m(6.5ft) over the current limit of 13.6m — could save up to one in eight journeys by carrying more freight, according to a nine-year trial by the Department for Transport.