Sheffield Council confirms there is no problem with gritter drivers amid reports of national shortage
Sheffield City Council has confirmed there are enough gritter drivers to keep the region safe this winter despite growing concerns over shortages across the country.
It comes as HGV driver shortages have been blamed for the recent fuel crisis and short supply of food on supermarket shelves, with fears now mounting that gritter lorries could be next to be affected.
The estimated shortfall of drivers in the UK – heightened by Brexit and the pandemic – stands at 100,000, with vacancies still not being filled fast enough.
But Sheffield council has reassured residents that the crisis is not affecting the area and there are plenty of drivers to spread salt on the roads during the icy months.
Streets Ahead is the council’s city-wide highways maintenance contract for upgrading and then maintaining the condition of Sheffield’s roads, pavements, street lights, bridges and other items.
The service is responsible for gritting the roads when temperatures plummet and is set to be fully prepared for the coming winter.
What is the situation with gritter drivers across the country?
As most councils use contractors and bin lorry drivers to help with salt-spreading services during the colder months, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that some other authorities may face some disruption.
Coun David Renard, transport spokesperson for the LGA, said: “While most councils have been able to keep services running, some may find that their gritting services are affected in the same way that some have seen waste collection services impacted.
“As they do every year, councils will be working proactively to plan ahead and ensure that their winter services are as resilient as they can be.”
Coun Renard added that the lure of increased wages in the private sector will only make the situation worse - with councils unable to match their pay.
“Councils are keen to work with Government and partners to support more training for these demand sectors, however this is a lengthy process and does not alleviate the short term pressures on frontline services,” he added.
HGV drivers can typically earn between £28,000 to £32,500 a year, but some supermarket delivery drivers are now being offered up to £70,000.
Labour says country is facing a ‘perfect storm’
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon has condemned the Conservative party and Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the shortage of HGV drivers and associated problems across the country.
He said: “We are facing a perfect storm of empty shelves, dry forecourts and services not delivered thanks to the Conservatives’ failure to plan for or even acknowledge the scale of this crisis.
“These issues aren’t going to disappear, no matter how much the Prime Minister tries to ignore them or blame others.
“Until the Government gets a grip, ordinary people will continue to pay the price for the major labour and skills shortages that will make an already critical situation worse.”
Downing Street has acknowledged the first fully-trained HGV drivers will not be ‘road ready’ until February.
Fresh fears for festive shortages arrived as one in six adults say they’ve been unable to buy essential food items in the last fortnight.