Why is there an HGV driver shortage?

Jul 15, 2021
Author: Paul Wormald
Paul is a partner at our Doncaster office. Paul specialises in advising small businesses and businesses in the transport & logistics sector. Paul also specialises in providing cloud accounting services to our clients.
HGV driver shortage

What has caused a driver shortage?

There are many factors that have contributed to the shortage of HGV drivers. The global pandemic has certainly been a major issue as many European drivers decided to return home, with haulage companies reporting that only a fraction of these has chosen to return.

In addition, Brexit also caused European drivers to return to their home countries. When the UK was part of the EU, European drivers were able to come and go whenever they wanted, but additional border bureaucracy has caused too much hassle for them to do this.

Moreover, the pandemic created a huge backlog of HGV driver tests making it almost impossible to get new drivers up and running.

In summary, the driver shortage has been caused by a high number of European drivers leaving the country either to do with Brexit or Covid and the backlog of HGV driver tests delaying new drivers from being able to work.


What issues are driver shortages causing?

HGV driver shortages threaten to leave gaps on supermarket shelves as industry experts warn that the UK is looking at a summer of food shortages with the country being short of around 100,000 HGV drivers.

Retail representatives have expressed concerns that the reporting of potential driver shortages would lead to customers’ panic buying/stockpiling similar to what we saw at the beginning of the first COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020. Furthermore, some fear that the problem will only get worse when hospitality businesses are able to reopen without restrictions on 19th July as they will be looking to increase their supplies.


How is the problem being tackled?

The government has recently announced that they will relax working hours until 8 August in order to ease pressure on the current driver shortage. This means that drivers will be legally allowed to work slightly more hours. However, this news has come with a lot of backlash from the industry, as many believe asking drivers that are already overworked to work more hours will lead to more accidents due to exhaustion. Kate Lester Chief Executive of Diamond Logistics believes that the government needs to do more to remove the bottleneck of HGV tests and offer grants for future drivers for their HGV training. She believes that recruiting and retaining new drivers is a more sustainable solution than asking current drivers to work more hours.

Transport minister Baroness Vere responded to the criticism by saying the government is doing all it can to ease the driver recruitment problem and needed the industry to work in partnership with them. She went to say that the suspension of the HGV levy on 1 August 2020 would save a haulage firm with 3,000 trucks £2.5m. This would be enough money to train 800 new drivers and she urges the industry to do so.

The RHA claim that her comments were too ‘simplistic’ and the industry needed the money that they saved to upgrade their fleets to comply with new policies like the Direct Vision Standard and clean air zones.


Transport and logistics partner at Hawsons, Paul Wormald, commented:

The Nation’s lorry drivers are an often-neglected element of the UK’s workforce, often having to work long, unsociable hours in less-than-ideal working conditions. However, the simple fact is that they are indispensable to the UK economy and a prolonged shortage of drivers will impact virtually everyone in some way, shape, or form.

Pure economics dictate that if there is a scarcity of properly trained drivers, then hauliers are likely to face increasing wage costs to attract the drivers they need. This in turn will filter its way to end-users in increased prices.

The latest temporary relaxation of driver’s hours smacks somewhat of a sticking plaster to cover a gaping wound, and further investment in measures to attract, train, and retain new drivers is required to keep goods moving around the UK. Asking already overworked drivers to put in more hours, with the attendant impact on road safety is far from a long-term solution.


How can we help?

At Hawsons we have a dedicated team of transport and logistics accountants at our offices in Sheffield, Doncaster, and Northampton. We act for a large number of clients in this sector across our three offices, ranging from hauliers to international couriers, and understand the challenges this dynamic sector faces.

Nearly every other commercial sector is reliant on the services transport and logistic businesses provide and, in many ways, this specialist sector is the linchpin for our country’s economy.

With our experience in the transport and logistics sector we are able to develop a close understanding of your business and, through active year-round involvement, we can help you anticipate and deal with challenges quickly and effectively.

Free initial meeting

Paul Wormald

Partner, Doncaster


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