There has been a fall in the number of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers, also known as large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers.
How many drivers have left the profession and what is the impact on businesses and consumers?
A shortage of hauliers and associated issues with logistics have led to some businesses reporting difficulties importing and exporting and may be leading to some consumers reporting not being able to find certain items in shops.
There has been a general decline in the number of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers, officially known as large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers, working in the UK for the past four years. Most of that decline has been in the previous two years, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
An estimated 268,000 people were employed as HGV drivers between July 2020 and June 2021. This is 39,000 fewer than the year ending June 2019 and 53,000 fewer than the peak for HGV driver employment, during the year ending June 2017 (321,000).
There has been a fall in the number of UK nationals employed as HGV drivers since the year ending June 2017. The number of EU nationals employed as HGV drivers increased between 2017 and 2020, but then decreased during the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of HGV drivers has generally declined since July 2016 to June 2017. The largest decline over the four years was among those aged 46 to 55 years.
There were 52,000 vacancies for posts in transport and storage in the three months ending September 2021, which is the highest since records began in 2001. HGV drivers make up around 10% of the transport and storage industry, which also includes rail and sea transport as well as road transport occupations such as taxi drivers and bus drivers.
The number of people employed as HGV drivers in any industry has fallen by 53,000 in four years
Throughout this article, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have used the Annual Population Survey because it is based on a larger sample and has a lower margin of error when analysing occupations data than the Labour Force Survey.
ONS does not recommend the use of the Labour Force Survey for this type of analysis because of small sample sizes and insufficient quality. For context, when comparing the quarters April-June 2017 with April-June 2021, the Labour Force Survey shows a fall of 68,000 across four years.
The Annual Population Survey shows there has been a net fall of 42,000 UK nationals employed as HGV drivers since the year ending June 2017, with 237,000 employed in the year ending June 2021. There were 15% fewer UK nationals working as HGV drivers in the year ending June 2021 than there were four years earlier.
The decrease was greatest during the coronavirus pandemic, with 26,000 (10%) fewer UK nationals employed as HGV drivers in the year ending June 2021 than in the year ending June 2019 (263,000).
There were 28,000 EU nationals working as HGV drivers in the year ending June 2021, which is 12,000 (30%) fewer than the year ending June 2017.
While the number of EU nationals employed as HGV drivers saw a small increase from just under 40,000 in the year ending June 2017 to 43,000 in the year ending March 2020, the number has subsequently decreased during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the year July 2020 to June 2021, 88% of HGV drivers were UK nationals, 10% were EU nationals and the remainder non-EU nationals.
In the last four years, the age group 46 to 55 years has seen the largest decline in HGV drivers
HGV drivers in the age group 46 to 55 years have seen the largest decline in the previous four years, falling almost 34,000 (29%) from between July 2016 to June 2017 and July 2020 to June 2021. The age group 56 to 65 years has fluctuated over the same four years, with a small fall of around 1,000 (2%).
The number of younger HGV drivers has also fallen. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of HGV drivers aged up to 35 years had generally been increasing and reached a peak of more than 68,000 in the year ending December 2019, before decreasing again.
By the year ending June 2021, there were around 52,000 HGV drivers aged up to 35 years, which was nearly 4,000 (7%) fewer than in the year ending June 2017.
A larger proportion of HGV drivers come from older age groups than the total working population
Percentage of workforce by age group, July 2020 to June 2021, heavy goods vehicle drivers and total UK, not seasonally adjusted
The HGV driver workforce is older than the average across the total employed population. Between July 2020 and June 2021, 29% of HGV drivers were over ages 56 years or older, compared with 19% for the overall employed population.
Just under 20% of HGV drivers were aged 16 to 35 years. This was lower than the average for the total working population, 36%.
The number of driving tests during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic was the lowest for more than a decade
Practical large goods vehicle vocational tests (C, C1, C+E and C1+E licences), Great Britain, monthly, from April 2007 to June 2021
Most driving tests were suspended between March and July 2020 and again between January and April 2021 because of lockdown restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
There were 16,022 practical driving tests passed of the type required to become an HGV driver in the year ending March 2021, according to data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Department for Transport (DfT).
This compares with an average of 41,731 large goods vehicle (LGV) practical test passes a year during the previous five-year period. It was the lowest since current records began in the year ending 31 March 2008.
The pass rate in the year ending March 2021 was 58% compared with 59% the year before.
In June 2021 there were 7,252 tests taken, the highest since March 2017, according to DVSA and DfT monthly data.
HGV drivers worked an average of 48 hours a week in 2019, which was largely unchanged since 2005, according to provisional data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. Average paid hours for the overall workforce were much lower at 33 hours in 2019. In 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, the average for HGV drivers fell to 46 hours a week.
HGV drivers earned an average (mean) of £12.25 per hour in 2020. This was similar to bus and coach drivers (£12.28), but more than van drivers (£10.51). The average pay for all occupations was £17.57 an hour. Until the coronavirus pandemic, average hourly pay for HGV drivers had been rising either in line with or slightly above inflation since 2013. In 2020, average hourly pay for HGV drivers decreased by 1.6%, but this is likely to have been affected by lockdown restrictions and furloughed workers.
Vacancies in transport and storage are their highest on record and up 56% on the previous quarter
Growth in vacancies within the transport and storage industry compared with vacancies across all industries. Index, Jan to March 2020=100, Jan 2020 to Sept 2021, UK
While HGV drivers represent around 10% of the transport and storage industry, more than half (57%) of all HGV drivers are employed within this industry.
There were 52,000 vacancies in transport and storage during the three-month period July to September 2021, the highest on record. This is 49% up on the January to March 2020 pre-coronavirus level, and 56% up on the previous quarter, April to June 2021.
The transport and storage industry is not alone in having high numbers of jobs to fill. Vacancies across all industries remain at record levels, with more than 1.1 million between July and September 2021. This is 40% higher than the January to March 2020 pre-coronavirus level.
Around one in eight businesses across all industries reported vacancies were more difficult to fill in the month to the end of September 2021 compared with normal expectations for the time of year.
These included 29% of businesses in the other service activities industry, 27% in accommodation and food service activities and 24% in human health and social work activities.
A lack of hauliers has caused challenges, but more businesses reported other issues importing and exporting
Percentage of all businesses currently trading, who reported they had exported or imported in the last year, and reported how their exports or imports were affected, weighted by count, 6th to 19th September 2021
Of currently trading businesses, 9% had exported and 9% imported in the last 12 months and reported how their exporting or importing compared with normal expectations for this time of year. These businesses were asked about the challenges they had experienced with exporting or importing in the previous two weeks.
Around 22% of businesses reported challenges importing in early to mid-September 2021, because of a lack of hauliers or logistics equipment and 10% reported challenges exporting for the same reason.
However, a larger percentage of businesses reported other challenges.
Additional paperwork was a challenge to importing for 41% of currently trading businesses who reported how importing had been affected. It was also a challenge to exporting for 35% of currently trading businesses who reported how exporting had been affected.
A change in wider transportation costs was also a challenge to importing for 48% of currently trading businesses who reported how importing had been affected and 31% of currently trading businesses who reported how exporting had been affected.
Nearly a third of people were finding it difficult to get groceries, medication or other essentials
The proportion of adults in Great Britain reporting that either groceries, medication or other essentials were not available has been rising steadily since August 2021 and stood at 29% in the period 22 September to 3 October 2021.
The shortage of HGV drivers may have been impacting the increase in adults reporting difficulties finding certain items, but this may not be the only possible cause.
1 in 7 people reported not being able to buy fuel during the two weeks to 3 October 2021
Between 22 September and 3 October 2021, 15% of adults in Great Britain reported not being able to buy fuel because it was not available. This was up from 4% between 8 and 19 September. The percentage reporting not being able to buy fuel was highest in the East of England (23%) and lowest in Scotland (6%).
The two-week period saw some consumers fill up their tanks before they needed to, which affected supplies on petrol station forecourts.
In the same two weeks, 17% of adults said they had not been able to buy essential food items, 23% said they could not find other food items and 3% were not able to buy medicine.
An analysis of HGV driver employment statistics and the recent trends and impacts of a lack of hauliers:
£10m for new HGV Skills Bootcamps to train up to 3,000 new drivers
25th Sept 2021: DfE is investing up to £10m to create new #SkillsBootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become #HGV drivers.
Up to 4,000 people will soon be able to take advantage of training courses to become HGV drivers, helping tackle skills shortages and support more people to launch careers within the logistics sector, as part of a package of measures announced today by the Government to ease temporary supply chain pressures in food haulage industries, brought on by the pandemic and the global economy rebounding around the world.
- Package of measures includes using MOD examiners to help increase immediate HGV testing capacity by thousands over the next 12 weeks.
- Nearly 1 million letters to be sent to all drivers who currently hold an HGV driving licence, encouraging them back into the industry
- 5,000 HGV drivers & 5,500 poultry workers added to existing visa scheme until Christmas 2021 to help food and fuel industries with driver shortages during exceptional circumstances this year
Free, short, intensive courses will train drivers to be road ready and gain a Cat C or Cat C&E license, helping to tackle the current HGV driver shortage. An additional 1,000 people are expected to be trained through courses accessed locally and funded by the government’s adult education budget.
Fuel tanker drivers need additional safety qualifications, which the Government will work with industry to ensure drivers can access as quickly as possible.
To help make sure new drivers can be road ready as quickly as possible, the Department for Transport (DfT) have also agreed to work with Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) to ensure that tests will be available for participants who have completed training courses as soon as possible.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is also announcing today the immediate deployment of their Defence Driving Examiners (DDEs) to increase the country’s testing capacity. MOD examiners will work alongside DVSA examiners, providing thousands of extra tests over the next 12 weeks.
The package comes as the DfT, along with leading logistics organisations have worked with the DVLA to send nearly 1 million letters to thank HGV drivers for their vital role supporting our economy, and to encourage those who have left the industry to return. The letter, which will arrive on doormats over the coming days, sets out that the steps the road haulage sector is taking to improve the industry, including increased wages, flexible working and fixed hours.
Alongside this, 5,000 HGV fuel tanker and food lorry drivers will be able to come to the UK for three months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief for the haulage industry. A further 5,500 visas for poultry workers will also be made available for the same short period, to avoid any potential further pressures on the food industry during this exceptional period.
Recruitment for additional short-term HGV drivers and poultry workers will begin in October and these visas will be valid until 24 December 2021. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are preparing to process the required visa applications, once made, in a timely manner.
However, we want to see employers make long term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour to build a high-wage, high-skill economy.
Visas will not be the long term solution, and reform within the industry is vital. That’s why the Government continues to support the industry in solving this issue through improved testing and hiring, with better pay, working conditions and diversity.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
“This package of measures builds on the important work we have already done to ease this global crisis in the UK, and this Government continues to do everything we can to help the haulage and food industries contend with the HGV driver shortage.
“We are acting now but the industries must also play their part with working conditions continuing to improve and the deserved salary increases continuing to be maintained in order for companies to retain new drivers.
“After a very difficult 18 months, I know how important this Christmas is for all of us and that’s why we're taking these steps at the earliest opportunity to ensure preparations remain on track.”
Separately, the Government is also bringing in legislation to allow delegated driving examiners at the three emergency services and the MoD to be able to conduct driving tests for one another. This will give the emergency services greater flexibility and help increase the number of tests DVSA examiners can provide HGV examiners.
The government will also provide funding for both medical and HGV licenses for any adult who completes an HGV driving qualification accessed through the Adult Education Budget in academic year 2021/22. Previously, adults who took these qualifications had to pay for their own licenses. This change will be backdated and applied to anyone who started one of these qualifications on or after August 1st 2021.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said:
“HGV drivers keep this country running. We are taking action to tackle the shortage of drivers by removing barriers to help more people to launch new well-paid careers in the industry, supporting thousands to get the training they need to be road ready.
“As we build back from the pandemic we’re committed to supporting people, no matter their background, to get the skills and training they need to get good jobs at any stage of their lives, while creating the talent pipeline businesses need for the future.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“It is a top priority to ensure that there are enough workers across the country’s supply chains to make sure they remain strong and resilient.
“We have listened to concerns from the sector and we are acting to alleviate what is a very tight labour market.”
The Government has been able to bring forward these solutions in response to a global issue made worse by coronavirus thanks to our existing work in this area. We have already taken a range of steps to support the industry, including streamlining the process for new HGV drivers and increasing the number of driving tests. Our measures provided a rapid increase in capacity and allow for an extra 50,000 tests to take place per year.
Progress has already been made in testing and hiring, with improving pay, working conditions and diversity. We continue to closely monitor labour supply and work with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points. Through our Plan for Jobs we’re helping people across the UK retrain, build new skills and get back into work.
The Food and Drink Federation’s Chief Executive, Ian Wright CBE, said:
“We welcome the Government’s pragmatic decision to temporarily add HGV drivers and poultry workers to the existing visa scheme.
“This is something UK food and drink manufacturers have asked for over the last few months - including in industry’s Grant Thornton report - to alleviate some of the pressure labour shortages have placed on the food supply chain.
“This is a start but we need the Government to continue to collaborate with industry and seek additional long term solutions.”
Elizabeth de Jong, Logistics UK’s Director of Policy, said:
“Logistics UK welcomes the Government package of measures aimed at improving the ongoing driver crisis. The government’s decision to grant 5,000 temporary visas for HGV drivers to help in the short term is a huge step forward; we are so pleased the government has listened to our calls and has made this bold decision to support the UK economy.
“We are also delighted that DfT have agreed to jointly send nearly 1 million letters to all drivers who currently hold an HGV driving licence. With fantastic HGV driving opportunities available in the logistics industry, now is the perfect time to consider returning to the occupation.”
Skills Bootcamps are short, sector specific courses of up to 16 weeks developed with employers and providers to meet skills shortages, with a clear line of sight to a job at the end. Anyone who is interested in becoming an HGV driver should visit the National Careers Service website or speak to a local careers adviser to find out more about their options.
Apprenticeships are also playing a vital part in providing the skilled talent pipeline businesses and the country need to recover from the pandemic. The government has worked closely with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) and employers to boost the apprenticeships on offer for large goods vehicle drivers including by updating the current Large Goods Vehicle Driver apprenticeship and increasing its funding. The Institute and the Government are also supporting the development of a new Urban Delivery Driver apprenticeship, which is due to be introduced later this year.
Employers in the industry can also take advantage of an additional £3,000 payment until 30 September for every new apprentice hired.
In order to act quickly the 5,000 HGV drivers & 5,500 poultry workers will be able to come to the UK through an existing mechanism for seasonal workers. Food, fuel and poultry businesses will recruit those with the necessary skills and experience we need and issue them with a certificate of sponsorship. Once the applicant has the certificate of sponsorship, they may apply for a visa under the temporary worker route on GOV.UK.
The Government has already announced safe streamlined testing arrangements, opening up another 1,000 test slots per week.
There are currently 5 Level 2 certificates in driving goods vehicles available to take.
DWP is working closely with employers and trade bodies, including Logistics UK and the Road Haulage Association, to promote jobs in the sector via its nationwide network of Jobcentres, and supporting workers into roles through the Sector-Based Work Academy Programme, alongside the expanded apprenticeship and traineeship offers. A DWP driver training pilot is also underway, as part of the wider Road to Logistics scheme.
Jobcentres across the country will be supporting Logistics UK’s Discover Logistics Careers campaign. The Discover Logistics Careers weekend, running from 29 October to 1 November 2021, will encourage logistics businesses across the UK to open their doors and invite local people into their businesses to talk about the jobs they offer.
How can I train to become an HGV driver? Your questions answered
This week we announced that DfE have invested up to £10m to create new Skills Bootcamps to train more people to become HGV drivers.
In addition, people can train through courses accessed locally and funded by the Government’s Adult Education Budget.
The move will help tackle skills shortages and support more people to launch new careers within the logistics sector.
Here we answer your questions on the initiative and what it may mean for you.
What Skills Bootcamps are available?
Skills Bootcamps in HGV driving will soon be available.
Skills Bootcamps are free, flexible courses that last up to 16 weeks. Participants that successfully complete the course are also guaranteed a job interview with a local employer.
The free, short, intensive HGV courses will train drivers to be road ready (and gain a Cat C or Cat C&E license), helping to tackle the current HGV driver shortage.
You can find out more about Skills Bootcamps here: Free courses for jobs - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
How do I apply to be on a Skills Bootcamp to be an HGV driver?
Course places on Skills Bootcamps in HGV driving will start opening from November. From early November, keep an eye on local press and advertising from Skills Bootcamps providers in your local area, as this is when they will start to promote the opportunities to sign up.
More information on where the courses are running across the country and how you can apply to take part will also be available on Gov.uk from around mid-November: List of Skills Bootcamps - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Skills Bootcamps in HGV driving will then begin from around the end of November or early December, depending on the timings of your local provider.
Will I have to pay to do a Skills Bootcamp?
No, Skills Bootcamps training is free of charge to eligible learners.
You are eligible to apply for a Skills Bootcamp if you are aged 19 or over and are employed, self-employed, have recently become unemployed (in the past 12 months) or are returning to work after a break.
Some Skills Bootcamps have additional eligibility criteria, so check with your local provider.
How long will Skills Bootcamps in HGV driving take?
The free courses will provide short, intensive training so that learners can become road ready within 16 weeks.
Are there other routes available to help me become an HGV driver?
Yes, there are currently five Level 2 certificates in driving goods vehicles which are available to take:
- Highfield Level 2 Certificate in Driving Goods Vehicles
- ProQual Level 2 Certificate in Driving Goods Vehicles
- Pearson Edexcel Level Certificate in Driving Goods Vehicles
- ICQ Level 2 Certificate in Driving Goods Vehicles
- SQA Level 2 Certificate in Driving Goods Vehicles
If your local provider is offering these courses then you may be able to get funding for both your medical and HGV licenses, as part of the Government’s Adult Education Budget (AEB). This offer is available between 1st August 2021 and 31st July 2022 and subject to your providers availability.
Previously, any adult who took these qualifications had to pay for their own licences.
What does the funding cover and am I eligible?
AEB funding will cover a maximum of one test per person and it applies only to the cost of an HGV and medical license, not the cost of the qualification itself. Taking a course is also subject to availability at your local provider.
These existing qualifications are either fully funded by government or co-funded depending on your personal circumstances, such as your age, income, or qualifications you have previously gained.
If you are fall into one of the following groups, you could also be eligible to have the cost of a Level 2 qualification in HGV driving funded:
- Aged between 19-23 and you do not hold a Full Level 2 qualification (equivalent to 5 A*-C GCSEs, or 5 Grade 4-9 GCSEs)
- Currently earn less than £17,374.50
Please contact your provider to find out more about the courses on offer and eligibility.
What will I learn on the course?
The course will cover all the testing, training and support required to take someone with experience of only driving a car right through to being a road ready HGV driver.
AEB qualifications in HGV driving consist of around 150 guided learning hours. The length of time taken to complete the qualifications will depend on the providers who deliver the qualification and the individual circumstances and prior experience of the learner.
What steps should I take to access these courses and AEB funding?
If you are interested in applying for this training, you can find out more by;
- Visiting the National Careers Service find a course tool: service.gov.uk/find-a-course.
- Contacting your local FE provider to find out if they offer one of the 5 driving qualifications and to confirm if you are eligible to have your medical and licenses funded by the AEB.
- Speaking to a local careers adviser at service.gov.uk/contact-us to find out more.
Individuals should contact their training provider if they have any queries about the cost of their HGV and medical licences.
If you have taken one of the courses listed above between 1st August and today, then please contact your provider to find out if your medical and license costs could be backdated and funded by the AEB. This is subject to your providers availability.
What skills will be helpful if I want to become an HGV driver?
There are a few skills you will need to possess in order to become an HGV Driver, these include;
- A sense of responsibility
- An ability to work independently
- Impeccable driving record
- Customer service skills
- Knowledge of truck mechanics
- Maintenance skills
- Organisational skills
- Excellent driving skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Concentration skills
If you want to prepare for a course in HGV driving, you might want to build up these skills. You can access free, online courses in employability skills like some of the ones listed above via The Skills Toolkit at: gov.uk/theskillstoolkit.
If you want to find out more about free courses and qualifications that could help boost your skills and get ahead in work, visit: gov.uk/free-courses-for-jobs to discover more options.
26th Sept 2021: The Business Secretary has met with senior executives from the fuel industry following recent supply chain issues at petrol forecourts in some areas of the UK
During the meeting, attendees discussed issues caused by supply chain pressures and spikes in localised demand.
As a result, Businesses Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has this evening agreed to implement a measure to temporarily exempt industry from the Competition Act 1998 for the purpose of sharing information and optimising supply.
Known as The Downstream Oil Protocol, this step will allow Government to work constructively with fuel producers, suppliers, hauliers and retailers to ensure that disruption is minimised as far as possible.
The measure will make it easier for industry to share information, so that they can more easily prioritise the delivery of fuel to the parts of the country and strategic locations that are most in need.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:
We have long-standing contingency plans in place to work with industry so that fuel supplies can be maintained and deliveries can still be made in the event of a serious disruption.
While there has always been and continues to be plenty of fuel at refineries and terminals, we are aware that there have been some issues with supply chains. This is why we will enact the Downstream Oil Protocol to ensure industry can share vital information and work together more effectively to ensure disruption is minimised.
We thank HGV drivers and all forecourt staff for their tireless work during this period.
The decision follows a package of measures announced over the weekend which will see the Government ease temporary supply chain pressures brought on by the pandemic and the global economy rebounding around the world.
These include an immediate increase in HGV testing, short term visas for HGV drivers and new skills bootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers.
In a joint statement, stakeholders from the fuel industry said:
We are in regular contact with Government ministers and policy officials and it was reassuring to meet with the Business Secretary again on Sunday evening and discuss further action.
We will continue to work closely in partnership over this period with local and national Government and want to reassure the public that the issues that have arisen are due to temporary spikes in customer demand, not a national shortage of fuel.
The HGV Driver Shortage is at Breaking Point – What Can Be Done?
22 Sept 2021: It’s been a challenging 18 months for the haulage sector. Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic have a dramatic and varied impact on the industry, but the pressing driver shortage is reaching a critical point.
The sector’s driving workforce has been reducing in size for a number of years, with Brexit and ageing employees compounding the issue and vastly increasing the number of owner drivers wanted in the sector.
How did we get here?
The HGV driver shortage has been brought about by a mix of issues and has threatened to bubble over for months. According to an RHA member survey, drivers reaching retirement age is the biggest contributor, very closely followed by Brexit.
The average age of haulage drivers is 57, while a quarter of the workforce is expected to retire by 2029. What’s more, it’s estimated that 80,000 EU nationals left the workforce in the year leading up to the Brexit deadline. Over 40% of hauliers also cited COVID-19, pay rates, and drivers leaving for a different sector as key reasons for the increasing gap.
COVID-19 has resulted in a HGV driver test backlog, meaning it’s been more difficult to embed new drivers into the sector. All of these factors have led to the driver shortage almost doubling since the beginning of the pandemic, rising from a shortage of 60,000 to over 100,000 in under two years.
What’s being done to address the crisis?
On July 12th, the government extended HGV drivers’ hours temporarily, allowing drivers to extend their daily hours from 9 to 11 twice a week. This move, however, was met with criticism from the sector.
Richard Burnett, Chief Executive at The Road Haulage Association (RHA), said: “We oppose wholesale extensions to drivers’ hours as we believe they can be counter-productive by making the job less attractive. Loading more hours on to drivers that are already exhausted is not the answer – the problem needs more than just a sticking plaster.”
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has also been increasing the number of tests it carries out, reaching 1,500 tests a week with overtime work and adding to its testing staff count. Further, the Department for Transport (DfT) has committed to a consultation on making the HGV driving test more straightforward. This will include allowing those with a provisional licence to move straight onto their articulated lorry test, without additional tests in-between.
What more can we do?
It’s clear that the HGV driver shortage will be a long-term problem that requires long-term solutions. But, because it’s reaching a breaking point right now, there are more measures that can be taken to plug the gaps.
Richard Burnett of the RHA has proposed short-term visas as a way of getting qualified drivers on the road quickly without the need to push more people through training and tests. Another option is to look at workers already in haulage businesses. While they may still need to pass the formal tests, they’ll have the benefit of knowing the business and its processes and systems inside out.
Seeking out employees in adjacent sectors, like public or private transport, is also an option because they will have a lot of skills needed to be a HGV driver. Some of these drivers may have left the sector due to poor working conditions – many drivers cite poor company culture, unrealistic expectations, and bad technology as reasons for leaving their businesses in Glassdoor reviews examined by Mandata.
Repositioning the role and highlighting the benefits of returning to the workforce is also key to attracting previous HGV drivers back into the sector. These workers are qualified and experienced in the role, and highlighting the positive changes made since they’ve left is important in plugging this critical skills gap.
Those of us in the haulage sector have known – and made noise – about the HGV driver shortage for some time now. But due to a myriad of issues such as an ageing workforce, Brexit, and COVID-19, the gap has only widened and has now reached breaking point. While the government announcing support initiatives is welcome, we need a blend of short- and long-term strategies in order to resolve the immediate crisis and ensure the sector is never struggling for drivers again.
HGV Apprenticeships Additional Investment
Ministers have agreed to increase the funding limit for Large Goods Vehicles apprenticeships. Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education at the time, confirmed that funding for C+E apprenticeships will increase to £7,000 from 1 July.
Richard Burnett said the announcement was a step towards resolving the driver shortage but said much more needed to be done, saying:
“We’ve worked tirelessly over the last year to unblock this problem and we’re pleased that the Government has listened. But this is only one element to help tackle the growing driver shortage crisis. This move will support firms to recruit and train new drivers in the long term, but the industry needs immediate help as the demand for goods increases as lockdown restrictions are lifted.
"With increasing demands being placed on UK hauliers, we hope the increased funding will help to attract more people into driving roles either by upskilling or retraining, as well as attract the younger generation looking to start their careers in haulage. Not only will this help plug the driver skills shortage and generation gap that is currently present, it will support haulage operator’s move to digital ways of working, taking more pressure off the industry."