Arla supplies milk to about 2,400 stores each day in the UK, but was unable to deliver to 600 stores last Saturday due to dwindling driver numbers.
The company, which has its UK headquarters in Leeds, said it has been struggling to recruit drivers since April and the Government must take urgent action to address the nationwide shortage.
The Road Haulage Association, which believes there is a shortage of 100,000 drivers, said a large backlog of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver tests has built up during the pandemic and many European drivers decided not to return to the UK after Brexit.
An Arla spokeswoman said that since April the driver shortage has “progressively got worse” and the company is “now facing a driver shortage crisis”.
“This has been compounded by the ‘pingdemic’, meaning we’re currently unable to fulfil around 10 per cent of planned milk deliveries in the south from our sites to stores,” she said.
“This requires both short and long term action to resolve. To try and ease the current burden, we’ve introduced a £2,000 signing-on bonus for drivers who are willing to work weekend shifts, where driver numbers often drop even lower.
“While in the long term we’re calling on Government to help clear the backlog of HGV tests, add HGV drivers to the list of skilled worker visas, making it easier for drivers from abroad to work in the UK, and change the track and trace regime.
“We’re also making changes internally to bring in new talent, launching an Arla UK Driver academy programme at all our five depots, using the Apprenticeship Levy to support and train new drivers.”
Other companies which have been hit by the shortage, such as Tesco, are also offering joining bonuses to drivers.
Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a consultation on plans to ease driver qualification requirements, as part of a package of measures designed to help the issue.
He also announced a temporary extension of lorry drivers’ working hours from nine to 10 hours a day.