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The HGV Driver Shortage in the UK, what’s being done about it?

The haulage industry is facing tough times ahead with the continuing shortage in HGV drivers throughout the country. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) estimates that there is a HGV driver shortage of 45,000 in the UK. If this is not addressed soon then the shortage is very likely to grow and begin to effect the UK economy.

The haulage industry is the lifeblood of the UK economy, it is what keeps the country moving and without it the country would grind to a halt. More than 85% of all goods bought in the UK are carried by a lorry at some stage in the supply chain. The haulage industry currently employs 2.2 million people – the UK’s fifth largest employer – and is worth £74bn to the UK economy.

Why is there a shortage?

The average age of HGV-licenced drivers is 57 and it is estimated that a quarter of drivers are set to retire within the next 10 years. Recent figures from the FTA estimate that only 17,000 new HGV drivers qualify each year. With these figures in mind, the HGV Driver shortage is only set to get worse over the coming years.

In a career where the salaries can start at around £20,000, and can go up to £40,000 or more, why are so many young people shunning a HGV Driving career? A survey conducted by a HGV Training company found that 13% of people had been warned off the career by their parents, 6% by their family and 4% by their school. 4% of people have even been told that it’s “beneath them”. This coupled with the £3,000 it costs to get a licence, it’s no wonder that the industry is finding it tough to recruit young people.

In autumn last year it was widely reported that many in the industry were greatly concerned about the impact of the driver shortage on Christmas, with gifts possibly going undelivered. This is a warning we have seen for many years, but all too often, Christmas is delivered, and steps are not taken to address the shortage. From our own experience, there is actually a bigger driver shortage in the summer months when the availability of lorry drivers is far worse than that of Christmas. We do not see this summer being any different.

Help is on its way!

You’d be forgiven for thinking ‘why doesn’t the government do something about this impending crisis?’. Well after much campaigning from those in the haulage industry, they are finally starting to take action. The Government’s new HGV Driver Trailblazer Apprenticeships received the go-ahead in December 2015. This will give young people a clear route to start their HGV Driving career and encourage them to look at the career as a viable option.

In response to the announcement of the new apprentice scheme, FTA Skills Development Manager Sally Gilson, said: “It was vitally important for the freight and logistics sector that quality training for HGV Drivers was recognised and that a formal route existed for young people to come into the role.”

The FTA held their first Skills Summit on 17th March 2016 to address the driver shortage head-on. The summit featured a number of key speakers and interactive workshops focusing on attracting new talent into the industry; recruiting from specific sectors including school leavers, armed service leavers, EU workers and NEETS (young people not in education, employment or training); and retaining the skills that organisations currently have. The summit spoke to improve the public perception of the haulage industry and make it a desirable place to work. It aims to have 3 million apprenticeships filled by 2020.

The industry faces some very touch challenges ahead, but it is encouraging to see that the wheels of change are in motion. Time will tell whether or not the new government apprenticeships will prove to be as successful as those for other industries. We can be certain that this issue will not disappear overnight, but it’s important that the industry act now before the situation gets worse and there is a more serious crisis.