Ongoing lorry driver shortage means wine could be off the table this Christmas - here's why

The latest product to struggle to make it to shelves in time for Christmas could be wine, the boss of international wine business Accolade - which makes Hardys and Echo Falls - has said.

One bottle of shiraz red wine is left for sale on emptied shelves at a Sainsburys supermarket (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
One bottle of shiraz red wine is left for sale on emptied shelves at a Sainsburys supermarket (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

The latest product to struggle to make it to shelves in time for Christmas could be wine, the boss of international wine business Accolade - which makes Hardys and Echo Falls - has said.

Robert Foye has warned that shortages in the number of truck drivers “could definitely impact Christmas”, and that the fate of wine drinkers’ festive seasons lies in the hands of “the entire transport and trucking industry in the UK.”

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Speaking to the BBC’s Talking Business programme, Foye said: “We are trying to get ahead of it. The only way we can mitigate this is if we work very closely with our trucking and transport suppliers and our customers.

“We have done some of that and are managing well so far, but ultimately costs will go up.”

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    Here is everything you need to know about it.

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    What’s going on?

    Alongside issues in a number of other key sectors, a massive shortfall in lorry drivers is contributing to significant supply chain issues across the UK’s economy.

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    Some sectors have been experiencing difficulties for several months, but the issue seems to have become particularly acute in recent weeks, with a number of retailers announcing shortages of goods.

    The bosses of Tesco and Iceland have both warned of big shortages, while the British Meat Processors Association warned that labour shortages could lead to a shortage of pigs in blankets over the holidays.

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    In late August, McDonald’s announced its milkshakes were temporarily no longer available in England, Scotland and Wales, while restaurant chain Nando’s has been among others in the sector facing shortages.

    How bad is the shortage?

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    Customers may have noticed that shelves in many supermarkets and shops have looked quite bare in parts lately, as a result of a shortage of lorry drivers in the UK.

    Shortages have been going on for some time, but now the heads of a number of sectors have warned that a shortage of drivers could lead to major supply chain issues for the foreseeable future.

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    The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has said there is a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers, from a pre-Covid total of 600,000, primarily because of changes to migration rules as a result of Brexit.

    Why is there a shortage of lorry drivers?

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    The increased bureaucracy involved in travelling to and from the UK often means increased costs to drivers who are paid for distance, rather than time (Photo: NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images)

    Because the UK is no longer part of the single market, in which HGV drivers can move across borders more freely, many European drivers have opted to work solely within EU countries.

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    The increased bureaucracy involved in travelling to and from the UK often means increased costs to drivers who are paid for distance, rather than time.

    And changes to the UK’s tax regime post-Brexit can also mean working in the UK is less attractive for many HGV drivers.

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    The pandemic has also impacted the number of HGV drivers in the UK, with many European drivers who were still in the UK heading home because of travel restrictions.

    “Staff shortages are definitely there and there’s a whole new group of employees that need to be trained, from truck drivers to restaurant staff,” Foye added, saying that despite the lifting of UK restrictions, business was taking longer to get back to pre-Covid levels.

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    “In the UK you’re 100 per cent opened up, but because of the effect of Covid, because people’s habits have changed and some outlets have gone out of business, you’re really only at 65 per cent of the level of 2019 levels.

    “We think it’s going to take two years to get back to 90 - 95 per cent level in the UK.”

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    A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, NationalWorld