Cumbria Chamber of Commerce has urged the government to think twice about its proposals to allow the temporary increase in HGV drivers' hours amid staff shortages.

The shortfall, which the Road and Haulage Association (RHA) puts at around 100,000, has meant some supermarkets say they are running low on products such as milk and vegetables because there are not enough drivers to transport produce from suppliers before it spoils.

In an attempt to alleviate the issue, the government announced that they would grant a temporary relaxation to the Drivers’ Hours rules from July 12 to allow additional flexibility to operators.

The daily driving limit will go up to 10 hours, with one period of 11 hours up to twice in one week - something Cumbria Chamber of Commerce said could put drivers at risk.

Managing Director of Cumbria Chamber, Suzanne Caldwell, said: "We understand the economic problems, and the shortage of HGV drivers which the Road and Haulage Association (RHA) puts at around 100,000, is a huge problem.

"And we agree with the RHA and HGV drivers who are opposed to these changes.

"Hauliers are already under huge pressure and we’re seeing the negative effect of that in the increase in traffic incidents in recent weeks.

"We understand the predicament businesses are in but the government should not risk the lives of drivers and others by this temporary extension of driving hours rules from July 12.

"In addition these measures may well encourage more drivers to leave the industry."

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce also said the proposals, announced by by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Wednesday, could have "serious" implications for a number of haulage businesses across Cumbria.

Ms Caldwell added: "We are aware of a number of businesses in Cumbria which are suffering massively with a labour and skills shortage, and hauliers are suffering just as much as those in hospitality, manufacturing and a number of other sectors.

"We’re talking with members in the county who are having to operate at a significantly lower capacity than usual due to staffing issues as well as bringing pay rises forward.

"We’re also engaging with colleagues at the British Chambers’ of Commerce and at other Chambers around how to best address the problems moving forward. So we know the problems regionally are very much in line with those nationally."The government have put themselves in a really difficult position, and they’ve looked at what they see as the easiest quick-fix to alleviate the shortage of HGV drivers, which is very disappointing."

A Government spokesperson said: "We're working with industry and have already taken action on HGV driver shortages, including ramping up vocational test capacity, and funding apprenticeships.

"We have also announced a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours rules.

"This will allow HGV drivers to make slightly longer journeys, but must only be used where necessary and must not compromise driver safety, with further measures to be announced shortly.

"Most of the solutions, however, are likely to be driven by industry, with progress already being made in testing and hiring, and a big push towards improving pay, working conditions and diversity.”