Driver shortage – the apocalypse?

June 25th, 2021
Driver shortage - the Apocalypse?
Nn1 Personnel

The UK HGV driver shortage has been making headlines recently. No wonder. There is a whooping shortage of nearly 70,000 drivers. This is affecting the speed and cost of deliveries across the country, and that’s not all.

The food supplies are under the threat. The prices rise, and supermarkets are facing shortages again, as there are no drivers to deliver the goods.

FWD Chief Executive James Bielby said: ” The driver shortage has reached crisis point for some of our members. We believe it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases. With the estimated 70,000 shortfalls in HGV drivers, some wholesalers have had to limit the number of deliveries they make to convenience stores which has led to some availability issues”.

According to the latest Logistics UK report, almost 1 in 10 logistic businesses (9.8%) say the recruitment of drivers is an ‘extreme barrier to the recovery of their business. Moreover, Alex Veitch, Logistics UK General Manager for public policy said: “Our report shows that 29% of logistics businesses anticipate that they will be unable to fill vacancies for HGV drivers this year”.

How did this happen?

  1. Brexit has had a huge impact on driver recruitment. It has forced EU nationals out of the industry as many have returned to their countries. Due to obvious Brexit-related reasons, they are not expected to return.
  2. The pandemic has interrupted the recruitment of migrant workers due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. Driving courses and test has also been postponed leaving over 45,000 of potential HGV drivers sidelined.
  3. Ageing workforce – nearly a third of the 300,000 UK drivers are over 55 and heading for retirement.
  4. IR35 reforms meant pay cut to already underpaid lorry drivers. This has caused anger among drivers, led to walkouts and self-furloughing and caused many of them to leave the UK – adding to the driver shortage.
  5. High cost of training new HGV drivers. It is very expensive to gain a necessary driving licence. The high insurance costs are not financially practical for companies who are looking to take up on new, inexperienced drivers or those under the age of 25.

According to the RHA, this has created a perfect storm for the logistics industry, reaching catastrophic levels in driver shortage.

The antidote

It’s good to see the drivers’ wages going up. However, this hasn’t been that much of a help. With no new drivers on the horizon, the battle of the existing drivers has begun. Driver retention causes more chaos, as businesses and recruitment agencies try to attract drivers with different reward schemes and promises.

To tackle the lack of drivers issue the Government must act now.

The Logistics Uk is pressing the government to introduce a seasonal visa for European HGV drivers,

FWD Chief Executive James Bielby has recommended the government having army trucks on standby “to ensure enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food”. In his meeting with Ministers last week he was to discuss other options like re-instate the temporary extension of drivers’ hours. He also recommended ending furlough for HGV drivers and temporarily waiving requirements for medical certs and CPC for those which have run out.

A meeting with ministers this week failed to produce a breakthrough, as far as the industry was concerned.

However, the Ministers have agreed to increase the funding for LGV apprenticeship. Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson has confirmed that funding for C+E apprenticeships will increase to £7,000 from 1 July. According to the RHA, it is a step towards resolving the driver shortage.

The RHA calls for action

The RHA has published UK Driver Shortage – RHA calls for action. The Document highlight 12 actions for the Government to tackle the situation. The action plan covers the following:

  1. Include HGV drivers on Government’s Skilled Worker Shortage Occupation List
  2. Coronavirus recovery – a seasonal visa scheme for qualified HGV drivers
  3. Continued priority driving tests for HGV drivers
  4. Establish a ‘Return to HGV Driving’ scheme
  5. Better promotion of the job and the sector as a whole
  6. Apprenticeship funding gap for C+E drivers in England and Wales
  7. Apprenticeships for Class C drivers
  8. An SME-focused HGV driver training scheme
  9. An independent HGV independent training loan scheme
  10. Other training schemes – DWP pilots/Road to Logistics
  11. Increase productivity of the road network
  12. Improve site productivity and the treatment of drivers at collection and delivery points

The RHA say they are continuing to put pressure on the Government to take action on the HGV driver shortage. They are also asking all operators to complete this very short and focused survey. This is to show how the shortage of drivers is impacting their business.

Follow this link if you would like to help pressure the Government.

A letter to Prime Minister

The RHA and the fright industry wrote a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The letter about the UK’s ongoing HGV driver shortage was signed by 22 members of the fright industry.

The RHA is urging the Government to allow the haulage industry access to EU and EEA labour before the supply chain collapses.

” We are grateful to Ministers from the Departments for Transport, and Work and Pensions, who have met with us to discuss solutions, but it is clear, despite best intentions, that there is no immediate plan. We firmly believe that intervention from the Prime Minister / Cabinet Office is the only way that we will be able to avert critical supply chains failing at an unprecedented and unimaginable level ” the letter reads.

You can see the full letter here.

The driver shortage is reaching the apocalypse. However, we trust this will change soon, as without the drivers the UK economy and our lives will suffer even more.

Will we be able to handle another crisis?

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