A leading transport firm quit the Road Haulage Association last night as a furious row over the lorry driver shortage dramatically escalated.
Europa, a logistics giant based in Kent, said the RHA was ‘substantially responsible’ for chaos at petrol stations in recent weeks.
Boss Andrew Baxter said he was ‘appalled’ by the tactics used by the RHA including ‘repeated leaking’ of confidential information.
He alleged RHA bosses leaked a voicemail recording with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to the BBC’s Panorama programme.
BidFood, one of the UK’s largest food wholesalers, told ITV News they are experiencing ‘significant pressures’, including problems recruiting HGV drivers
It came as critics accused the Government of incompetence over its handling of the driver crisis after ministers revealed only 20 emergency visas allowing foreign truckers to work in the UK have been granted so far.
Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said that around 300 people had applied to take part in the scheme, but only around 20 of 5,000 available visas had been issued.
He admitted the number of applicants was ‘relatively limited’ but stressed this was ‘going to increase’.
The UK’s estimated 100,000 shortfall of drivers has been linked to shortages on supermarket shelves, dwindling petrol supplies and missed bin collections.
The crisis has been spurred by factors, including the exodus of foreign drivers after Brexit, poor pay and a testing backlog caused by Covid restrictions.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: ‘It is staggering that just 20 fuel tanker drivers from abroad who applied to work here are now on UK roads.
Lorries wait at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, as shipping giant Maersk has said it is diverting vessels away from UK ports
In the face of a national crisis and our ports going into gridlock, the response from Conservative ministers is too little too late.’
He added: ‘This incompetence risks causing more empty shelves and more misery for British consumers in the run-up to Christmas.’
Meanwhile, in an open letter to the RHA, Mr Baxter said: ‘I am appalled by the way the RHA has conducted itself over recent years. It is no longer an adequate representative organisation for the UK road haulage industry.’
He claimed: ‘The RHA was substantially responsible for the current fuel crisis by leaking information regarding fuel stocks, which has damaged the country and the haulage sector.’
The RHA was unavailable for comment.