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Trucking Industry UK

HGV driver shortage ‘no longer critical’

The UK's HGV market accelerates 12.9% in 2021 to defy supply challenge, says SMMT.

The UK’s HGV driver shortage is no longer described as being ‘critical’ as returning and new drivers have now boosted numbers.

However, a lot needs to be done to improve driver pay, parking facilities and conditions – or the country will continue facing significant churn in driver numbers.

A report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been analysed by logistics consultancy Driver Require which shows that there has been a 40% recovery in the falling numbers of drivers working in the industry since the pandemic began.

The figures highlight that nearly 30,000 HGV drivers have now returned to working behind the wheel.

The quarterly Labour Force report, which covers the period from July to September, shows there were 261,000 drivers in the transport sector.

That’s an increase of 28,000 drivers on the 233,000 who are working in the second quarter.

Haulage workforce of 301,000 lorry drivers

However, that’s still 70,000 drivers short of the haulage workforce of 301,000 lorry drivers before the pandemic began.

The report from Driver Require also highlights that one impact of increasing HGV testing capacity has seen nearly 5,000 HGV drivers under the age of 35 signing up.

The number of HGV drivers in the UK aged between 35 and 45 fell by 3,789 with more than 5,000 EU nationals returning to driving a lorry – though these appear to have come from other UK-based jobs.

The firm’s report states: “We expect most of these would have been below the age of 45. This implies a net addition of approximately 10,000 HGV drivers below the age of 45, yet this age group only increased by a little over 1,000.

“We can conclude that about 9,000 HGV drivers left from the under-45-year-old group, leading us to suspect that employment conditions and a lack of suitable quality parking facilities are still causing drivers to abandon driving for a career.

‘The shortage is moving to ‘severe’ rather than ‘crisis’ levels’

“We are therefore optimistic that we have reached a turning point in the UK’s HGV driver shortage crisis and that the shortage is moving to ‘severe’ rather than ‘crisis’ levels. The government’s efforts to increase HGV testing capacity and throughput seem to be working and will continue to accelerate the numbers of new entrants to the sector over the coming months.”

The report also makes clear that more needs to be done to address the HGV driver shortage problem in the UK by addressing pay and employment conditions and the lack of secure HGV parking facilities.

And it is these issues that will help prevent the continuing churn of lorry drivers from the sector because they become disillusioned with a low-quality working environment.

In addition, the government now needs to take ‘urgent action’ to deal with a backlog of HGV licence renewals.

Of the driver numbers, the largest fall in drivers is for the 45 to 55 age group which saw 23,000 leave the sector.

‘Renewal of medicals may be a factor’

The Driver Require report adds: “We suspect that renewal of medicals may be a factor in preventing drivers, whose licence had expired, from returning to work in this age group. We believe that lots of HGV drivers have been told by the DVLA that they will have to wait many weeks for their licence renewal to be processed.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of these drivers are struggling to provide evidence of their HGV medical result and their DVLA licence renewal submission. 

“Consequently, despite Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, we suspect that many haulage operators and agencies are refusing to allow expired HGV licence holders to drive until they receive their new licence card. We therefore recommend urgent action to address the backlog of HGV licence renewals.”

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