Army ‘on standby’ to deliver food amid shortage of lorry drivers

The Army has been put on standby to deliver supplies to supermarkets as Britain faces a shortage of 100,000 truck drivers.

Around 2,000 personnel who are qualified HGV drivers are believed to be on a five-day notice to help distribute food and essentials including medicine.

The Government is set to make a formal plea to the military for help ‘imminently’, with members of the Royal Logistics Corps and other regiments expected to be called upon by the end of September.

The crisis is thought to have been exacerbated by the so-called ‘pingdemic’ which has forced thousands of drivers to go into self-isolation.

And it comes amid growing fears of empty supermarket shelves – as Sainsbury’s last month warned of shortages, in part due to a lack of lorry drivers.

‘Messages are being sent out to all Army personnel with HGV qualifications,’ a source told The Sun on Sunday.

‘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 Road Haulage Association (RHA) warned there was a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers as thousands are forced to wait to take their HGV test due to a huge backlog created by the lockdown.

The intervention will take place under Operation Rescript, part of the military’s ongoing efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps temporarily increased the maximum time lorry drivers can spend on the road.

But truckers slammed the relaxation of rules as ‘stupid and dangerous’ – as critics accused the Government of relying on short-term solutions.

RHA managing director of policy and public affairs, Rod McKenzie, warned how the crisis was a ‘very serious threat’ to the supply chain.

‘There is a critical shortage of lorry drivers and the Government are using short-term measures to address this,’ he said.

Drafting in the Army will not fix the problem, Mr McKenzie believes.

‘The Government’s next step is to bring in the Army. There are 2,000 qualified HGV drivers in the Army. We’re 100,000 lorry drivers short,’ he said.

‘Another issue is Army drivers are used to driving Army lorries and not civilian vehicles.

‘Once again, they are using a short-term fix. It is not a good idea. We need to address what to do to get another 100,000 drivers.’

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