Logistics UK said it sympathised with lorry drivers plotting a nationwide strike next month and repeated calls for the government to allow EU drivers temporary work visas.
The strike is due to take place on 23 August in a renewed protest against pay and conditions, but has been criticised by the RHA as counterproductive - and likely to put even more pressure on the supply chain by exacerbating the driver shortage crisis.
But Logistics UK fell short of condemning the drivers' actions, instead insisting that new government measures to ease the situation were long overdue.
"Logistics UK will not condone any action which threatens the integrity of the UK’s supply chain," a spokesperson told motortransport.co.uk. "But we understand the concerns of those who have worked so hard throughout the pandemic, and are now being placed under even greater pressure as a result of self-isolations and holiday absences.
"As a sector, logistics has had to operate with a shortage of over 65,000 drivers for many years, but the impact of Brexit – which has forced many EU nationals to return to their home countries – is now being felt in the industry, with the shortfall of workers now estimated to be at around 90,000 people.
"Drivers have been the engine room of the country throughout the pandemic, keeping businesses and homes supplied with all that they have needed. Government now needs to stand by these key workers and take steps to help industry supplement the workforce.
"The most immediate way to do this would be to announce a temporary work visa for EU drivers so they can return to their jobs in the UK and support the domestic workforce while British drivers either wait for their test applications to be processed or for new entrants to the marketplace to be trained, which can take up to nine months."
Added Alex Veitch, general manager of public policy: “Logistics has relied on EU drivers for many years, and their loss at the start of the year as a result of Brexit has hit the sector hard. While new drivers are trained and qualify – which can take up to nine months – and DVSA works through its backlog of outstanding HGV driver tests – which we estimate could take until early 2022, it would be prudent for the government to enable temporary visas to be made available for European workers to return to supplement the domestic workforce. The government has already done this for agricultural workers through the Seasonal Worker Scheme, so the precedent has been set: and what is the point of allowing people in to pick the food, if it cannot be transported anywhere due to a lack of available staff?
“Logistics workers, and particularly HGV drivers, have acted as the engine room of the UK’s economy throughout the pandemic, keeping homes and businesses supplied with what they need. The recent extension of drivers’ hours rules will not solve the problem; the recently improved Apprenticeship Standard for LGV Drivers is launching in August and will take time to have an impact, and the driver test backlog is unlikely to be cleared till the New Year.
"Without an interim solution while new drivers are recruited, trained and tested, the current problems experienced across the country with out-of-stock items will continue. There are simply not enough qualified personnel available to do the jobs we rely on every day – we urge the government to be pragmatic and rethink its refusal to allow temporary visas for the sake of the UK economy.”