The acute shortage of HGV drivers in the UK is impacting all aspects of supply chain operation and transported products, with shops lacking stocks and fresh produce being dumped or left to rot and the the Road Haulage Association (RHA) warned that the serious lack of drivers is a growing, global phenomenon.

The driver shortage has reached critical proportions in Britain this year, as we’ve lost something like 15,000 European drivers since around March, who have returned to the continent, because they no longer feel welcome in the UK, have lost their right or status to work here, or due to changes to the (IR35) taxation rules of self-employed drivers.

Food wholesalers are experiencing severe difficulties delivering to stores, pubs, restaurants and care homes, with the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) meeting ministers to discuss options, including having army drivers on standby to ensure food distribution is not interrupted.

The RHA questioned the validity of using the military, noting that army drivers “would certainly need retraining, suggesting we need sensible short and long-term solutions to tackle the driver shortage and that “It won’t be long before the impact of the driver shortage crisis is felt beyond our industry as the costs of moving goods rises significantly.”

The government’s post-Brexit immigration polices prioritise high-skilled immigration and make it legally impossible to recruit foreign HGV drivers, as they are not deemed sufficiently skilled to be eligible for the skilled worker visa.

The overall lack of drivers in the UK is estimated to be between 50-100k due to the mass departure of EU lorry drivers from the UK (estimated to be around 35% of the UK driver labour pool) creating a lack of supply and price inflation, with European prices jumping to a three-year high in May as available capacity plummeted to a three-year low

The cancellation of an estimated 28,000 HGV driver tests as a result of COVID-19 restrictions has undermined efforts to grow the pool of 300,000 qualified lorry drivers in the UK, that is desperately needed to cope with post-lockdown consumer demand, particularly as a third of those drivers are over 55 and heading for retirement.

The government has started a campaign to recruit 300 more driving examiners, with the DVSA, the testing agency, now making 4,000 tests available each week, but there are doubts that domestic recruitment will fill the gaps and it is also not certain that UK workers will embrace the long working hours and tough working conditions.

Efficient collection, delivery, container movement and UK haulage across all sectors depend on sufficient numbers of drivers, but the shortage of qualified and experienced HGV drivers is getting worse every day, with pressure mounting on the government to add drivers to the UK Shortage Occupation List.

We maintain our own fleet and driver capability and work with an established pool of haulage partners, to give us access to equipment and driver resource at Felixstowe, Southampton and regional ports. 

For help with your UK transport or for further information on our road operations please contact Martin Rue.