COVID-19: The critical worker crisis

In an effort to protect supply chains and essential services the government released a list of sectors where fully vaccinated workers may be exempt from isolation if they are told to quarantine after coming into close contact with a positive COVID-19 case. Many of these are within the supply chain and global logistics platforms that are essential to businesses functioning successfully.

Fully vaccinated adults will no longer have to self isolate if they are ‘pinged’ from 7th August in Wales; 9th August in Scotland; and 16th August in England.

Instead, they will be advised to take a PCR ( if you have ever wondered what it stands for – polymerase chain reaction) test and can stop self-isolating if the result is negative. If the result is positive, they will need to self-isolate just like anyone else.

Until the 16th of August in England employers providing the critical services listed below can request a self-isolating exemption for named employees who are fully vaccinated.

  • Energy
  • Civil nuclear
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Food production and supply
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Veterinary medicines
  • Essential chemicals
  • Essential transport
  • Medicines and medical devices
  • Clinical consumable supplies
  • Emergency services
  • Border control
  • Essential defence outputs
  • Local government

Supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers will be exempt whatever their vaccination status and this is being extended to transport and freight workers, plus those working in the selected critical sectors.

Despite the government’s moves supply chains are missing critical personnel at every point, including ports, freight terminals, railheads and shipper warehouses, not to mention the continuing HGV driver crisis.

So far the government has ignored pleas to relax Brexit immigration rules to allow foreign drivers to return on a temporary basis and calls for the MoD to provide drivers is unlikely to have any impact on the situation. The government’s moves to increase working hours and streamline driver testing systems, to aid recruitment, will only have a marginal impact.

With the shortfall of drivers already standing at 100,000, any personnel loss through illness, self-isolation or move to higher-paying retailers is having a profound impact on haulier operations across the country and particularly around key ports and airports.

After years of underpayment and poor working conditions, a job as an HGV driver has become more attractive in recent months as a growing number of firms offer up-front bonuses and wage uplifts in an effort to attract and retain staff, though shippers are increasingly picking up the tab, through driver surcharges.

All the signs are that we are heading for worsening disruption, as drivers taking holidays are added to COVID-19 shortfalls, without any drivers to cover.

Road transport cannot be avoided, as part of the movement of goods, with drivers critical for container movements, international and domestic haulage.

Metro work with a number of reliable, selected long-term haulage and rail partners across the UK, to give us access to the widest pool of equipment and driver resource. 

We frequently audit and manage our associated partners’ standards and ensure the safety of all individuals within our platforms are always compliant with the current regulations and legislation.

To learn more, or to discuss your road transport requirements, please contact Elliot Carlile or Grant Liddell (or Simon Balfe who leads our UK multimodal transport operations) who can talk you through the options.