HGV Driver Shortage

The shortage of HGV drivers has reached a crisis point. With multiple theories circulating about what the underlying cause is, exclusive data has been sourced by The Grocer to determine what is driving the problem.

What was a quiet storm at one time within the supply chain has turned into a complete hurricane. The low shortage of HGV drivers which has plagued the logistics and haulage professionals for quite some time is now urgent, acute, and sizeable. Businesses of all sizes and shapes are now hit and food shelves are being left empty throughout the country.

While everyone involved have their own opinions on the solutions and causes, there is very little evidence that supports these claims. This has resulted in a growing rift between various camps, especially between government and industry.

The Grocer, with its exclusive data, can now tell a more complete story, which shows the real causes of the driver shortage in addition to planning a potential route out.

An important thing that needs to be noted is that the driver shortage in Britain is not new. Even during the heady days before Brexit or Covid, Logistics UK reports that the UK already lacked about 76,000 drivers. If you would like to play a part in helping the country during these difficult times but don’t have the right train then see ‘lorry driver training‘.

In recent years the workforce has continued to become increasingly stretched, with demand continuing to grow, and based on ONS figures, the number of drivers has continued to be steady at about 300,000. Significant growth has only occurred among EU drivers. In 2010 the number was 10,000 and in 2017 surged to 45,000.

This means that European divers have become an essential part of the overall industry, expanding the workforce and supplying elasticity during times when there was increased demand. However, relying on overseas labour has been a concern for a long time. MPs encouraged the transport industry in July 2016 to reduce its reliance on foreign drivers and stated that the industry was principally responsible for doing this.

During the pandemic, the situation worsened after the massive exodus of drivers out of the UK workforce. According to exclusive ONS data, the total numbers dropped from 304,000 in the first quarter of 2020 down o 235,000 in the second quarter of 2021, which represented a 69,000 net loss. It is estimated by Logistics UK that there is currently a shortage of around 90,000 drivers.

So where have all of the drivers gone? And what steps can be taken to get them to return?

For the logistics and food industries, the main factor driving the shortage is the loss in EU divers. More than 20 businesses and rade bodies sent a letter recently to PM Boris Johnson urging the government to act based on what they viewed were the five key things causing the driver crisis.