There is a significant, national shortage in the number of HGV drivers and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has warned that the situation is ‘rapidly deteriorating.’ In the last week alone, many companies including big name supermarkets have publicly cited a lack of drivers and supply chain issues as the reason for product shortages and shoppers have been faced with empty shelves. Hospitality has also been affected with some chain restaurants implementing temporary closures as a result.

However, both the RHA and Logistics UK (formerly the Freight Transport Association) have advised that the current shortage of HGV drivers is not simply a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and that there are other important factors affecting the issue.

This is being particularly felt in the container haulage sector due to all container drivers needing to be Class 1, and the fact that there is severe congestion at the ports

What Factors Are Affecting the Driver Shortage?

The shortage of HGV drivers is an ongoing problem. The average age of a HGV driver in the UK is 55 (RHA, 2021) so every year a significant number of the workforce reaches retirement age. Even before the pandemic hit there was a UK shortage of drivers, however since then, multiple factors have exacerbated the problem.

Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has played a huge part in creating additional shortfalls in driver numbers. Many EU drivers returned home at the start of the pandemic, creating a further decline in the workforce. Of those remaining, many have needed to take time off due to contracting Covid-19 or have been forced to isolate. Thousands of driving tests were also cancelled during national and local lockdowns, creating a backlog of potential drivers unable to enter the workforce due to delays and waiting lists once restrictions were eased.

However, beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many other factors that are impacting driver numbers.

Brexit is contributing to the shortfall in HGV drivers as there are simply fewer EU drivers now living or working in the UK. Brexit has made it more difficult for professional drivers to move in and out of the UK meaning that many drivers have chosen to return to their home country to work instead.

On top of this, recent tax changes such as the IR35 reform made it more expensive for EU drivers to work in the UK, meaning that for some, it simply wasn’t worth continuing to do so.

A recent survey conducted by the RHA asked their members to cite what they believed were the main reasons for the current driver shortage. The results showed the top 3 answers to be:

  • Retirement
  • The UK leaving the EU
  • The IR35 Change

Other reasons given were Covid-19, drivers moving to work in other industries and unsatisfactory pay rates.

Is the Shortage Only Affecting the UK?

The driver shortage isn’t only affecting the UK. Covid-19 has caused global supply chain issues due to port closures and lack of available shipping containers, amongst other issues. Europe is also experiencing driver shortages with Poland, Germany, France, Italy and Spain all reporting shortages. However, the UK has been particularly badly hit due to the combination of factors previously mentioned.

What Is Being Done About the Driver Shortage?

Several strategies are being employed to improve the situation, including the introduction of a controversial extension to driving hours. The extension allows drivers to work for 11 hours per day, rather than 9 hours, twice a week. However, the move has been criticised within the industry and concerns have been expressed over safety.

Meanwhile, many companies have increased wages and instigated pay rises for their existing drivers and begun offering welcome bonuses for new drivers as incentives to encourage drivers who may have been considering alternative careers to stay and to appeal to those considering joining the workforce to come on board.

There are also government plans to fast-track driver testing although the industry has warned that this is unlikely to be a quick fix solution as new drivers still require a supervision period before entering the workforce.

The RHA has called for the government to place truck drivers on the Shortage Occupation List to ease short-term pressures and protect supply chains. This would permit a relaxation of rules to allow EU drivers to return to work in the UK.

How Hawley Logistics Can Help

The situation may sound concerning but here at Hawley Logistics, we’d like to reassure our customers that despite global driver shortages we’ve still got you covered. With over 35 years of experience in logistics, our extensive knowledge and well-established networks mean we can continue to offer the same reliable, cost-effective logistics services we always have.

Thanks to our longstanding partnerships worldwide, we remain confident that we can transport your goods wherever they need to go and get them there on time. So whether you’re looking for Sea Freight, Air Freight or Road Freight or you need UK distribution and haulage solutions, get in touch today or request a call back and we’d be more than happy to discuss your needs and how Hawley Logistics can help.