The CEO of Logistics UK has responded to comments made by the Prime Minister on the 5th of October, which suggested that the UK’s current supply chain issues are the fault of the haulage and logistics industry.
David Wells called the suggestion, “Quite frankly, wrong.” He went on to explain that two recent shocks to the system have created the current problems, citing the exodus of drivers leaving the UK and the lack of testing for new HGV drivers as the main issues at play. He noted that over 19,000 drivers left the UK as a result of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic and that there are 45,000 new HGV drivers awaiting tests. Wells urged the government not to “Shift the blame,” but to “…redouble its efforts to provide assistance in those areas it can control.”
What Is Causing the Driver Shortage?
The driver shortage affecting the supply chain is not just a UK problem. Across Europe, the sector is experiencing an ongoing and significant shortfall in workers. Transport Intelligence assessed the severity of shortages across Europe in August 2021 and estimated the total shortfall to be in excess of 400,000 drivers, with Poland, the UK and Germany the worst affected.
Multiple factors have contributed to the growing problem here in the UK. Both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic saw large numbers of EU drivers leaving the UK. Brexit made it more difficult for EU drivers to continue living and working in the UK, which means many were left with no choice but to return to their home countries.
Additionally, the start of the Covid-19 pandemic saw many drivers leave the country and not return. There remain ongoing issues with drivers becoming unwell or testing positive for Covid-19 and being required to isolate, taking them out of the workforce temporarily at a time when driver shortages are already having a detrimental impact on the supply chain.
Other reasons for EU drivers leaving the UK include recent tax reforms and the fact that salaries and working conditions are better in Europe, with Salary Expert reporting average HGV driver salaries as much as £16,723 per year more in Denmark compared to the UK, for example.
It isn’t just a lack of EU drivers that is affecting the UK shortage, however. In 2019, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that for the first time, the number of HGV drivers over the age of 50 exceeded the number of drivers under the age of 50. Unsurprisingly, this has lead to an increased retirement rate amongst drivers. Ordinarily, this would be offset by new drivers joining the industry, however recently this hasn’t been the case. Not only has the pandemic resulted in a backlog of potential new drivers awaiting tests but many drivers who have passed their test, have then, for whatever reason, not gone on to join the workforce.
ONS data also shows that many existing licensed UK drivers have chosen to leave the industry altogether, with working conditions, unsociable hours and low pay thought to be the main culprits for drivers seeking employment in other sectors.
What Can Be Done About the Driver Shortage?
Already, the government has offered temporary visas to any HGV drivers from Europe wanting to come and work in the UK. However, Logistics UK CEO, David Wells urged the government to extend the number and duration of these visas to allow the backlog of UK driving tests to be tackled before EU drivers, once again, leave. He also raised the separate issue of safe, secure overnight parking areas for HGV drivers, which are currently in short supply.
Better incentives for drivers are a more long-term strategy to improve workforce numbers. Increased pay and better working conditions will be crucial in order to persuade the thousands of licensed HGV drivers not currently working in haulage to return to the sector and to encourage existing drivers to remain in the industry.
Get In Touch
Ongoing issues with lack of drivers affecting the supply change are obviously of great concern to all of us, especially in the lead up to Christmas, typically one of the busiest times of year but we’d like to reassure our customers that Hawley Logistics remain confident that we can transport your goods wherever they need to go and deliver them on time.
Our 35 years of experience in logistics, combined with our extensive knowledge and well-established networks enables us to offer the same reliable, cost-effective logistics services we always have despite global driver shortages.
If you’re in need of 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.