A new report has been released by Driver Require that investigates the growing HGV driver shortage in the UK. Titled “A Perfect Storm of Elevated Demand and Reduced Supply in the UK Haulage Sector 2021”, the report brings together a panel of haulage experts – the Think Tank – to examine the current situation, the reasons for the shortage and potential solutions.
The driver shortage
As a recruiter to the haulage sector, Driver Require has been monitoring the UK’s driver shortage for a number of years. Since the pandemic has progressed, they have noted that the supply and demand for HGV drivers has undoubtedly been impacted.
Haulage activity has recently returned to pre-pandemic levels, with demand for approximately 300,000 HGV drivers. This demand is only likely to increase throughout the rest of the year.
The UK is expected to experience a strong economic recovery in the latter part of 2021, and as pubs and restaurants are allowed to reopen, there will be a demand for hauliers to replenish stocks and meet higher than normal levels of custom. This will cause an initial surge and it is expected to put a great deal of initial stress on supply chains in these sectors.
Furthermore, as travel restrictions are lifted, permanent HGV drivers are expected to take holidays, which will lead to a significant jump in agency HGV driver requirements.
The Think Tank has identified that the “most likely” shortage scenario is a 22,000 (7%) drop, rising to a worst case scenario of a 30,000 (10%) drop.
The haulage sector was already suffering from a chronic low-level shortage of HGV drivers before the pandemic, which became more severe during times of rapid uplift in requirements or seasonal peak demand. While a shortage such as this would not usually be a serious concern due to incoming European workers offsetting the deficit, that will no longer be the case due to the points-based immigration rules.
It is therefore expected that – for the first time in 20 years – the UK could experience a true HGV driver shortage.
Reasons for the driver shortage
The drop in driver supply has been caused by a number of factors, including:
- Reduced inflow of new HGV drivers due to restricted HGV training capacity during lockdowns
- Increased outflow of HGV drivers due to:
- EU HGV drivers leaving the UK because of COVID-19
- Brexit further alienating EU workers
- The impact of IR35 forms on net pay
- Drivers seeking other careers due to poor pay and conditions
Mitigating the driver shortage
Driver Require’s report concludes that “it would be remiss not to act and do what we can to mitigate against” the driver shortage. Obstacles must be removed and an influx of drivers from other sources must be facilitated.
The suggested solutions include:
- Training new HGV drivers: support efforts to increase HGV driver training and testing throughput by approaching the DVSA and DfT to take action; seek to leverage surplus MoD HGV training capacity; support the Trailblazer Group for Transport & Logistics with lobbying for an HGV Driver Cat C+E Apprenticeship with a funding level of £7,000
- Attracting back UK HGV licence-holders who are not driving for a career: conduct a survey of licence holders to determine their occupation and, if not driving for a career, the reason why they left the HGV driver pool; seek Government subsidy of CPC courses and refresher HGV training for returning drivers
- Permit EU HGV drivers to enter the UK for work: continue to lobby for HGV drivers to be considered a Shortage Occupation, especially if it can be proven that other means of attracting candidates are failing or too slow
Until the HGV driver market has stabilised, it is likely the UK will be forced to ride out the storm.