The ongoing driver shortage continues to pose a significant challenge in the UK. While there are also shortages of HGV drivers across Europe, the UK is among the worst affected. Now, as we approach Black Friday and the Christmas peak, many within the industry are warning of inevitable stock shortages.

What has caused the UK driver shortage?

Although there was a significant shortage of drivers (around 60,000) pre-pandemic, there is now an estimated shortage of 90,000 – with some suggesting this figure is actually upwards of 100,000.

The reduction in driver supply has been caused by a combination of:

  • Brexit
  • The COVID-19 pandemic
  • Tax reforms (IR35)
  • Driving test backlogs
  • Poor pay and working conditions

There are further concerns that, with the average age of HGV drivers in the UK at 55, approximately one-third of the UK’s 380,000 drivers may retire in the next five years.

What’s more, during the pandemic, the shift to online shopping increased the demand for qualified drivers, which has added to the squeeze.

Warnings of empty shelves

With no ‘quick fix’ in sight, the ripple effects of the driver shortage are expected to worsen over the coming weeks, particularly as Black Friday and the Christmas peak approach. Gaps on shelves are predicted.

There have already been a number of high-profile shortages across the UK, including:

  • Nando’s temporarily closing 50 sites due to supply chain problems
  • McDonalds stopping the sales of milkshakes and bottled drinks, which was blamed on the driver shortage
  • BP temporarily closing a number of sites due to the inability to deliver petrol and diesel

The Bank of England has also reported that transportation delays have resulted in shortages of items such as furniture, car parts, electrical goods and materials for the construction and manufacturing sectors.

What is being done to alleviate the driver shortage?

In July, the UK government announced a temporary extension to driver hours, which allows them to increase their daily limit from nine to 11 hours twice a week. Initially, this ran for four weeks until 8th August but it has since been extended to 3rd October 2021. The extension was met with mixed reactions, with some suggesting it compromises safety standards.

More recently, the government has said it plans to encourage more new drivers by freeing up 50,000 HGV tests slots. This will mean:

  • Car drivers will no longer need to take a separate test to tow a trailer or caravan
  • Tests will be made shorter through the removal of several elements, which will then be tested separately by a third party
  • Drivers will be able to obtain a licence for an articulated vehicle without first getting one for a smaller vehicle

While the change has yet to be approved by parliament, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has already raised concerns over the removal of test elements. Reversing, for example, will no longer be a part of the test.

The industry has once again asked for foreign drivers to be added to the Shortage Occupations list, which would mean they could qualify for a skilled worker visa. The government, however, has so far been reluctant to do so.

Our global supply chain experts are working closely with customers to help minimise disruption and identify the right solutions. We are continuously monitoring developments within the market and will keep customers and our wider community informed. If you would like to discuss your current freight requirements and future planning, please get in touch today: hello@ligentia.global

The ongoing UK driver shortage may be at risk of worsening, with a significant number of drivers currently proposing a “stay at home” day on August 23rd 2021.

Responding to low pay and working terms, around 3,000 hauliers are said to be involved with the nationwide strike, with a further 340 joining the movement last week. It is expected to compound the effects of the current lorry driver shortage, especially during the ongoing “pingdemic”, which has seen many supply chain workers self-isolate.

Head of Media and Communications at the Road Haulage Association (RHA) Kate Gibbs has said that the strike is not the answer and that it will make an already bad situation worse.

The driver shortage

Earlier this year, Driver Require released a report investigating the growing HGV driver shortage in the UK. Bringing together a panel of haulage experts, the report concluded that the haulage sector was on the verge of experiencing a true HGV driver shortage for the first time in 20 years.

The reduction in driver supply, it said, has been caused by a number of factors:

  • Reduced inflow of new HGV drivers due to restricted HGV training capacity during lockdowns
  • Increased outflow of HGV drivers due to:
    • Retirement
    • EU HGV drivers leaving the UK because of COVID-19
  • Brexit further alienating EU workers
  • The impact of IR35 forms on net pay
  • Drivers seeking other careers due to poor pay and conditions

In June, the RHA upgraded its estimate of the shortage of HGV drivers from 60,000 to 100,000 due to delays at testing stations preventing newly qualified drivers from getting on the road.

Responding to the issue, the UK government has extended lorry drivers’ working hours, and has revealed plans to ease driver qualification requirements and improve working conditions. Many drivers and industry experts, however, feel the measures fail to tackle the problem on any meaningful level.

A quick escalation in “salary wars” in the UK haulier market has meant heavy rate increases as suppliers do what they can to keep hold of drivers. There has also been a significant reduction in the ability to cover deliveries, with many suppliers unable to utilise a large portion of their fleet.

A multitude of challenges

The driver shortage, and news of this potential upcoming strike, is just one of many issues currently facing shippers in the UK market. From rising rates, equipment shortages and limited capacity, to Brexit and changing regulations, the current environment is one of extreme challenge.

Our global supply chain experts are working closely with customers to help minimise disruption and identify the right solutions. We are continuously monitoring developments within the market and will keep customers and our wider community informed. If you would like to discuss your current freight requirements and future planning, please get in touch today: hello@ligentia.global