A new report published by Logistics UK shows there is cause for cautious optimism that the HGV driver shortage is improving.
The Logistics UK Skills Report 2021 highlights how steps have been taken to help address the recruitment issues which have plagued the sector for years, with Government and industry working together to increase capacity to test new drivers, provide new training schemes, and commit to improving facilities available to those working across the roads network.
Hauliers return to the workforce
In November, The Grocer magazine reported that the driver shortage was easing: “Official data shows that the HGV driver shortage has eased significantly in recent months, as almost half the drivers who left the profession during the pandemic have now been recovered.
“The number of HGV drivers in the UK grew by 30,000 in Q3, reflecting a 40% recovery in the drop in numbers since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the ONS quarterly labour survey released last week.”
Increased testing capacity appears to be having a positive effect on driver numbers. Dave Lewis, the government’s supply chain tsar and former Tesco CEO, told a group of logistics professionals that testing capacity had doubled from 1,410 per week to 2,850 since the summer and would rise again to 3,300 by December. However, he added that there were still about 600 empty test slots each week, he added.
However, The Grocer magazine warned that there is still a problem with retention. Around 9,000 HGV drivers under the age 45 left the workforce in Q3, according to the figures, almost cancelling out the number who entered the workforce in the same age bracket. The magazine noted that the highest payers also struggled to retain drivers. Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation, explained: “It’s often the SMEs who have a better relationship with their drivers.”
More to be done
Elizabeth de Jong, policy director at Logistics UK commented that while there has been progress, there is still more to do. She explained higher wages are now helping to plug the gaps in employment for companies which can afford them. An increase in HGV driver tests of 25.6% and three-fold increase in applications for vocational provisional licences will help to ease the driver shortage in the short term. However, although average driver pay surged 10% in the nine months to October 2021, “smaller fleet operators are still not back to full fleet capacity after the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown, and their inability to compete for drivers by offering higher wages appears to be hindering their efforts to recruit new staff.”
Logistics UK is calling for the Government to continue its commitment to:
- driver testing throughput
- funding Skills Bootcamps to train HGV drivers
- improved overnight parking provision
The full Logistics UK Skills Report 2021 can be downloaded from logistics.org.uk.