Nearly 50 members of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) have called on the transport secretary to act over the shortage of HGV drivers and freight disruption. The WSTA said today that 49 wine and spirits businesses have signed a letter, after rising costs and supply chain chaos have held up wine and spirit deliveries.

The WSTA said it has received “multiple reports” from its membership, highlighting that importing products is now taking “up to five times longer” than it was a year ago.

The organisation also reported that costs have increased around 7% by freight forwarders to account for driver retention.

In the letter the trade association told transport secretary Grant Shapps, it was “imperative” that he take the following steps:

1. Extend the temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers from 28 February 2022 to a minimum of one year, to ease the burden on industry and allow for a sufficient increase in domestic drivers.

2. Actively facilitate better routing of freight from ports and smaller UK-based driver networks for short-haul journeys, delivering Government investment and working in partnership with industry to achieve this goal.

3. Deliver regular updates on DVLA processing HGV driving tests and licences.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “There is mounting concern amongst our membership that unless urgent action is taken, we will fall deeper into delivery chaos. 48 member companies have put their name to our letter calling on the Transport Secretary to extend the temporary visa scheme and improve transport routes.

“We are already seeing major delays on wine and spirit delivery times which is pushing up costs and limiting the range of products available to UK consumers. Government needs to be doing all it can to ensure British business is not operating with one hand tied behind its back over the festive season and beyond.”

Meanwhile, some companies have taken matters into their own hands. In November, wine and spirits agency Vindependents announced that it has created a France-based warehouse and distribution company as it looks to tackle increased shipping times, paperwork and costs associated with Brexit.