The government has announced that the number of hours HGV drivers can legally spend behind the wheel will be temporarily extended.
The extension, from nine hours each day to 10, takes effect from Monday 12 July.
The move is intended to ease the current shortage of lorry drivers that is causing stock shortages across the retail and hospitality sectors. In June, the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) urged the government to take immediate action to avoid stores being faced with empty shelves.
The shortage is due, in part, to the coronavirus outbreak which delayed 30,000 tests for new drivers. Brexit is also blamed, with 15,000 European drivers leaving the UK in the past year.
James Bielby, Chief Executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, said the “immediate and obvious solution” had headed off a potential “catastrophic supply chain failure”.
Bielby said the extension meant wholesalers could now make up to 15% more deliveries every day.
He added: “Provided it remains in place into the autumn, it will avert possible school closures in September and shortages in the shops in the run up to Christmas.”
Not everyone was as pleased at the news; retail distribution trade union Usdaw urged the Government not to compromise road safety.
Warning of the role tiredness plays in many serious road accidents, Usdaw National Officer Mark Todd said the “short-term response” was not the answer to the lack of drivers.
He commented: “The Government needs to make the industry more attractive through improving employment rights and ensuring higher pay for workers.”