What is the old saying about a chain being only as strong as its weakest link?
When it comes to a looming fuel shortage in the U.K. and threat to supply chain due to a lack of truck drivers, these words will likely resonate with most people.
Of course, referring to the growing concern—it is not yet at the crisis stage, as a fuel shortage is a misnomer. The fact is that there is plenty of fuel. The challenge is getting it from the point A source to the point B petrol stations, which is where the driver shortage comes into play.
A Collective Threat to Supply Chain
According to a CTV article, there are many reasons why there is a driver shortage in the U.K.
Obviously, the U.K.’s exit from the European Union has contributed to the problem; however, it is not the only reason. Other factors include older drivers retiring early due to the COVID-19 pandemic and generally poor pay and working conditions, including the scarcity of rest stations.
Each of these issues collectively threatens the distribution of fuel and can potentially spill over into other commodities. There are even early warning signs of problems regarding everyday staples by way of a few empty store shelves. Once again, it is not yet at the stage of being a major concern.
That said, with long lines of cars scrambling to get gas, how much longer will it take for similar line-ups to form with people fearfully eager to stock up on toilet paper or fruit and vegetables at the local market?
Not Just A UK Problem?
For instance, “89% of all goods transported by land” in the U.K. are moved “directly by road.”
By comparison, in North America, a June 3rd, 2019, Business Insider article reports that trucks move “more than 70% of ALL goods transported around the United States.” In other words, the trucking industry long taken for granted by all of us is the lifeblood of a country’s supply chain.
Given this dependency, driver shortages are a significant threat to the timely movement of goods.
How bad is the driver shortage?
The shortage of drivers in the U.K. grew from 76,000 in 2020 to 90,000 today. In the U.S., it is estimated that there will be a shortage of 160,000 drivers by 2028. In short, this is not just a problem in the U.K. but globally.
Does the Supply Chain Have to Get Worse Before Better?
So, what is the answer to the current driver problem?
In the immediate term, find a way to bolster driver numbers. For example, the U.K. is “trying to entice former British drivers back into the industry, as well as to accelerate the training of new drivers.” However, a major stumbling block to bringing on new drivers may be industry experts’ mid to long-term solution.
Based on research, experts suggest that by 2027, many if not all truck drivers may be replaced by “automated technology.” We are talking about the advent of the driverless truck. After all, if driverless trucks are being used extensively in the mining industry, why wouldn’t they work for all sectors? And if we apply that logic to the present situation, why would anyone want to train for a job they will possibly lose within the next few years?
In 2021 there have been many issues with supply chain logistics. The above may mean that the driver shortage situation is likely to worsen before it gets better, so reserve your place in line.