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BMF raises concerns over builders' merchants driver shortage

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The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) has reported that transport issues are affecting builders’ merchants ability to meet their customers’ needs. The BMF states that its members have reported widespread disruption and delays, with a shortage of drivers able to transport materials in the UK. This is in part due to difficulties in member companies finding new and replacement drivers, as well as struggling to secure agency cover because of the demand across the industry.

Jim Parlato, BMF East Midlands Regional Chairman and Director at Browns Builders Merchant in Derby, said: “Drivers are our biggest concern at present. We have two of our warehouse and yard operatives taking their tests shortly but getting courses and booking tests has become an issue with demand meaning months of waiting.”

The issues have led to extended lead times for some products, and even failed deliveries.

David Young, BMF South West Regional Chairman and CEO of Bradfords Building Supplies, said: “We have 16 LGV driver vacancies at the moment. We’re struggling to recruit and also no agency cover is available due to demand. The knock-on effect is lead times to our customers are extended by a day, from one-to-two days to two-to-three days.”

“We do have 22 internal drivers being trained up but there are not enough test slots available so this is taking longer than normal. Suppliers to builders’ merchants have also been hit by the shortfall, resulting in restrictions on some products and failed deliveries at short notice.”

The driver shortage issue has come as figures from The Road Haulage Association (RHA) show an existing deficit of 60,000 lorry drivers has been compounded by 15,000 European drivers leaving the UK, as well as the cancellation of 30,000 HGV driving tests during the pandemic.

The BMF is now compiling information across its member network to share with Government and look towards a solution to address the issue.

John Newcomb, BMF CEO, said: “It is clear that there is a major deficit of HGV drivers and issues with training and supporting new recruits into the role, and this is now causing delayed deliveries and rising costs across the UK.”