Supermarkets running out of supplies because of blockades

Summary

Drivers protesting Belgium’s new road tolls for lorries are blocking access to supermarket distribution centres, putting at risk supplies of food and other products

Protest at road tolls

Retail industry federation Comeos has warned that Belgian supermarkets could suffer shortages of many products in the coming days unless an end comes to the blockades imposed by lorry drivers. The drivers are protesting at the 1 April introduction of road tolls for heavy goods vehicles on Belgian roads.

The blockades have been operating since last Friday at motorways and industrial estates, mainly in Wallonia. Some of the estates concerned are the locations of supermarket distribution centres.

“About 20 depots provide supplies for some 4,000 supermarkets, representing 75% of the sector,” said Comeos director-general Jan Delfosse. “For several days now, lorry drivers have been blocking access to some of those depots. The provision of shops is at risk, meaning retailers will not be able to supply their clients and will suffer substantial financial losses. Restaurants are also affected: Some suppliers had to close their doors on Monday and Tuesday because of supply problems.”

According to Comeos, the blockades are illegal, and the federation called on local authorities and police to take action.

Meanwhile, police have handed out the first fines to drivers who are not equipped with the on-board units (OBUs) needed to track a vehicle’s movements and calculate the tolls to pay. The new fees are imposed on all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and vary from 7.4 to 29.2 cents per kilometre, depending on distance covered, the type of road and the sort of vehicle.

For drivers caught not equipped with an OBU, the fine is €1,000, and the driver has three hours to pay or face an additional fine of €1,000.

Photo courtesy VRT