CBA: Driver situation worsening
The UK’s Chemical Business Association (CBA) has written to various government ministers, warning that “the supply chain situation in the UK is deteriorating” because of the continuing and deepening shortage of HGV drivers.
In its September survey, 96% of CBA members said they were “experiencing issues with UK haulage”, up from 63% in June when the association last highlighted this problem; 78% were also experiencing problems in the EU. It expects the problem to get worse before it can get better, because of the additional qualifications needed for anyone carrying hazardous substances.
“While chemicals represent a relatively small sector of the distribution industry, they have a disproportionate economic and social significance,” the CBA added in a briefing paper. “We have voiced our concerns on several occasions that supplies of chemicals to key business sectors, such as water treatment, fuel and oil additives – are likely to suffer from delayed or cancelled deliveries, resulting in consequences for public health, the environment, and economic growth.”
The key problem is the ever-increasing demand for transport when many drivers are retiring and not being replaced, because this is primarily a job done by older men. In the UK, the number of HGV drivers fell from 304,000 to 256,000 in the two years from March 2019: 14,000 of them were from the EU, showing that Brexit had “significantly exacerbated” an ongoing problem.
All this was echoed by CBA member the Hazchem Network, which works with over 60 specialists in chemical transport that deliver essential chemicals to hospitals and utility works, among others. “All transport companies are being impacted by driver shortages and COVID isolations,” said managing director Robert Symes.
On 7 September, the Environment Agency introduced a waiver permitting some companies to discharge sewage to rivers if they do not have the right water treatment chemicals, notably ferric sulphate, because of supply chain problems. This is also the result of the driver shortage. The CBA did not comment, because, CEO Tim Doggett said “regulatory changes to the treatment of water do not fall within our remit”.