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Trucking Industry UK

New HGV registrations rocket – led by construction boom

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

New HGV registrations rose by 12.9% year-on-year in 2021, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 

Growth in key industry sectors, such as construction, saw demand outstrip supply, with truck registrations surging from a locked-down 2020 fall of -32.2%.

However, the global semiconductor shortage, as well as supply constraints affecting steel and aluminium, impacted availability, resulting in 7,571 fewer (-16.9%) HGV units being registered compared with the pre-pandemic average.

‘Much of our economy dependant on HGVs’

The SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “With so much of our economy dependant on HGVs, the market’s return to growth is good news as getting more of the latest, high tech and low emission trucks onto the roads is critical to both air quality and climate change improvements. 

“However, the sheer variety of functions that HGVs perform, in logistics, construction and waste collection to name but three, illustrates how a range of technologies may be necessary to decarbonise road transport.”

He added: “Manufacturers are investing billions in such technologies, including battery-electric, hydrogen and other alternative fuels but operators will need clarity, affordability and evidence on an infrastructure plan dedicated to their needs if this transition is to be delivered on time.”

The SMMT says that 37,163 units were registered last year, 57.1% of which were rigids, while 42.9% were articulated trucks, in line with market splits seen in previous years, though both segments grew with 2,239 more rigids (+11.8%) and 2,006 more artics (+14.4%) registered than 2020.

Tipper demand rose by 32.5%

As construction began to bounce back during the year, tipper demand rose by 32.5% to 3,808 units. 

Tractor units were the most popular type of HGV, with 15,679 units (+16.0%) representing a market share of 42.1%, while refuse trucks increased by 2.0% to 2,067 units and curtain-sided lorries declined by -6.3% to 2,452 units.

In terms of UK nations, the majority of registrations were recorded in England (87.8%), followed by Scotland (6.9%), Wales (3.0%) and Northern Ireland (2.2%). 

Regionally, most new HGV registrations were made in South East England (23.2%), North West (12%), West Midlands (12%) and Yorkshire & Humberside (11.9%).

HGV driver numbers stabilising, says Logistics UK

Meanwhile, the number of HGV drivers in the workforce fell by 49,000 in Q4 2021 (compared to Q4 2019), according to an analysis of the latest ONS statistics published by Logistics UK.

However, with the number of driving tests increasing as a result of greater capacity provided by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), HGV driver numbers in the marketplace appear to be stabilising. 

The director of policy at Logistics UK, Elizabeth de Jong, said: “The new ONS data shows that attracting new entrants to the profession, and ensuring sufficient tests are available, are key to the resilience of the logistics sector. 

“The long waiting list to take a vocational HGV test in Great Britain has been a key contributor to the driver shortage crisis; the data in the report reveals that the DVSA is making progress in catching up on the testing backlog which grew out of the restrictions under the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to Logistics UK, 27,144 HGV vocational tests were undertaken in Q4 2021, representing a 53.5% increase compared with Q4 2019.

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