The national truck driver shortage is causing disruptions to businesses and chains across the UK, stemming from a combination of Brexit, Covid-19 and various other factors. According to the BBC, before Covid there was an estimated shortage of around 60,000 drivers, this figure has now risen to 100,000.
In this article, we look at what’s causing the UK truck driver shortage and what is being done to try and tackle it.
The UK’s truck driver shortage has reached crisis levels as a result of several different factors, including an ageing workforce, drivers having to leave the country due to Brexit, Covid-19 and more.
An estimated 14,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the Brexit transition period, according to Logistics UK.
Although countries across Europe are experiencing HGV driver shortages too, the UK is reported be one of the hardest hit.
This can be attributed in part to many European drivers leaving the country to return to work back at home or to begin working in a different country.
Logistics UK and British Retail Consortium have called for the government to review the decision not to grant temporary work visas to HGV drivers from EU countries. This would act as a short-term solution whilst the backlog of drivers waiting for tests is cleared and new drivers are trained.
The UK’s truck drivers are an ageing workforce, with 47% of drivers being over 50 and only 1% under 25. The shortage increases as more and more drivers approach retirement age because there aren’t enough new drivers joining the industry to replace them.
The pandemic has only intensified this issue, with many being unable to take the HGV driver training and tests needed to become qualified and eligible to work in the industry.
HGV driver tests were halted for most of 2020. According to RHA, 30,000 test slots were lost and only 15,000 drivers were able to successfully complete training – this figure is down from 25,000 the year before.
Various plans are being put together to meet the UK’s demand for truck drivers.
Two of the UK’s largest business groups, Logistics UK and British Retail Consortium have written to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, urging the government to immediately put the following three policies in place:
Following pressure from haulage companies, lobbyists and retailers who have borne the brunt of supply shortages, the government is expected to release details of planned changes to the HGV driver testing process.
The plans are expected to streamline the testing process so drivers can be fast track into the haulage industry and fill the critical demand for truck drivers.
The BBC estimates that the new testing regime could put an extra 1,600 drivers on the road each week, providing that the current pass rate of 56% remains.
The government has also temporarily relaxed drivers’ hours rules to allow for slightly longer journeys, when necessary, without compromising driver safety.
Some companies that have been hit hard by the shortages are offering pay rises, bonuses, and other incentives to drivers in order to combat the shortage.
Last month, John Lewis Partnership announced plans to increase the annual salaries of LGV drivers by up to £5,000 a year. In addition to this, the retailer is offering a generous welcome payment of £1,000 to new LGV drivers joining the business before November.
Similarly, Tesco is offering new drivers a £1,000 joining bonus for new HGV drivers who join the company before the end of September.
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