‘It’s chaos’: Christmas prices will rise in Britain, truckers say

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TATSFIELD, England, September 30 (Reuters) – Truck drivers have a warning message for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson: A severe driver shortage is raising their wages and this will have a ripple effect on food prices and gifts in the run-up to Christmas.

An air of chaos has gripped the world’s fifth-largest economy in recent days as a truck driver deficit left gas pumps running dry across the country, and a surge in wholesale natural gas prices in Europe pushed energy companies going bankrupt.

The UK is short of around 100,000 truckers after tens of thousands re-entered the European Union during the Brexit maelstrom and 40,000 truck driver tests were canceled during COVID-19 shutdowns.

At the Clacket Lane petrol station next to the M25 motorway in London, drivers from Great Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Russia and from Turkey were parked for rest after trips from all over Europe.

Over the faint smell of sewage, cigarette smoke and diesel fumes in the truck fleet, dozens of drivers have told Reuters in multiple languages ​​that wages are set to rise.

They spoke of a hard, lonely life on the road: dirty showers, high parking fees, nights disrupted by knife-wielding thieves, illegal migrants seeking a secret ride, and the pain of divorce after years of being away. women and children.

“Wages will have to go up, so the prices of everything we deliver, everything you buy off the shelves, will also have to go up,” said Craig Holness, a 51-year-old British truck driver with 27 years of experience, who was parked in place for a break.

Rising trucker wages may provide a glimpse of a conundrum bothering investors: whether or not the world is on the verge of persistent price hikes after government and central bank follies during the COVID crisis .

The pound fears that the shortage of truckers could dampen economic growth, which is forecast at 7% this year. Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said on Wednesday he was focusing on the inflationary effects of supply shortages, including labor.

Transport companies and recruiting agencies are fighting to fill truck driver jobs: one was advertising a Class 1 heavy truck (HGV) driver for 75,000 pounds ($ 102,500) per year, level the highest that the recruiter has ever heard of.

“With heavy truck drivers, we are now paying them 40% more than four months ago,” Jordan Francis, commercial director of recruitment agency ProDrive, told Reuters.

He recalled a driver whose hourly wage had increased to 22.50 pounds per hour from 14.00 pounds per hour in March. Login bonuses of 1,000 are also offered.

“MARRIAGE KILLER”

Holness said the shortage of drivers would not go away anytime soon because conditions were so bad that many young people refused to do so.

While trying to sleep recently near West Bromwich in central England, thieves cut an 11-foot hole in his web, causing hours of delay and stress.

A shopper looks at the produce and empty shelves in the meat aisle of the Co-Op supermarket, Harpenden, Great Britain, September 22, 2021. REUTERS / Peter Cziborra

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“Who wants to be a truck driver – you better type on a keyboard, right? Kids these days don’t want to know,” Holness said. “I want to go out.”

He suggested Johnson, who was educated at Eton, Britain’s most exclusive school, and Oxford, its most exclusive university, spend several days trucking to figure out the issues.

“Basically you’re just being treated like the scum of the dirt,” said Phil, a 52-year-old British truck driver from Malvern, in central England, who just got what he was doing. called a significant salary increase. “The prices will go up.”

He said many truck stops reeked of urine and feces – and that work left little time to see family.

“He’s a marriage killer,” he said.

The government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas to 5,000 foreign truck drivers. None of the truck drivers interviewed by Reuters believed many would take up the offer.

“It’s hard work and the young people don’t want it,” said Anton Pogodin, a 37-year-old truck driver from Omsk, Siberia, who now drives from Portugal.

But in Bucharest, some Romanian truckers were tempted by the offer. Read more

“THE CHAOS OF BREXIT”

UK ministers have repeatedly denied that Brexit was the root of the truck driver shortage, but many drivers across the EU blamed this for prompting so many Eastern European drivers to head for the exit.

“No one else has those kinds of issues that you have here,” said Belgian driver Patrice Rese, 65. “It’s because of Brexit.”

“Good luck to you Mr. Johnson,” he joked.

Miguel Brunel, a 41-year-old pilot from Bethune in northern France, questioned the logic of replacing so many British pilots with those from Eastern Europe and then urging those pilots to leave.

“If they had maintained a market of English drivers rather than replacing them with drivers from Eastern Europe, they would not be in this position,” Brunel said in French.

“It’s chaos,” he said.

($ 1 = 0.7311 pounds)

Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Additional reporting by Kate Holton and Jonathan Shenfield Editing by Alistair Bell, Alexandra Hudson

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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