Caroline Moody

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced that he is confident food supplies will not run out in the event of a prolonged outbreak of coronavirus.

There already seems to be sporadic so-called panic buying. I’ve noticed empty shelves where the own-brand paracetamol and ibuprofen used to be down at the local supermarket.

Many businesses are currently considering the long-term effects of employees, customers or those in their supply chain becoming infected or self-isolating if they develop similar symptoms during what is a traditional period of colds and sniffles.

I sincerely hope it doesn’t approach anywhere near the worst-case scenario, which is that Covid-19 will severely harm this nation’s health and economy.

I’ve already heard discussions about the challenges facing the airline industry, if difficult-to-replace pilots are unable to fly – and very little about the haulage and logistics industry.

We all know the statistics. More than 2.5 million people work in the sector, which is the UK’s fifth largest employer and worth £124bn to the economy.

Furthermore, 98% of all food, agricultural goods, consumer products and machinery are moved by road freight in Britain.

That worst-case scenario is that up to 80% of the country could contract coronavirus. Given the current shortage of HGV drivers, if only a modest percentage of those are drivers or logistics centre staff, then the country will quickly experience shortages in this world of just in time deliveries.

I’ve already issued advice to all my employees – drivers included – about how they can protect themselves from contracting coronavirus and have already secured a valuable consignment of anti-bacterial handwash.

However, it seems to me our drivers are particularly vulnerable. Many are involved in multi-drops around the country, coming into daily contact with a number of people. The very nature of the business means they can’t always easily access facilities where they can wash their hands – with some businesses already making it a rule that their loos are for staff only.

There are many things to take into consideration, such as the need for drivers to frequently disinfect often-touched parts of the cab, such as steering wheels, handles and gear sticks.

In the unlikely event they haven’t already, I’d urge others in the haulage industry to consider the implications of coronavirus, how it may impact their business and the measures they can take to help limit its spread.

Otherwise there may be more than a few packets of paracetamol missing from the shelves.

Caroline Moody, MD, Moody Logistics & Storage