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Haulage Industry Faces 10,000 HGV Driver Shortfall

According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), the number of people in the UK with HGV licences totals 516,000, but the latest data from the Department for Transport (DfT) shows that only 54 per cent (278,700) HGV drivers were employed in 2020.

BBC News reports that industry action groups and experts have been urging the government to help recruit drivers, and have said that better pay and improved working conditions are needed to lure non-working HGV drivers back.

Experts have pinned the blame of the shortage largely on Brexit and the pandemic, which saw 14,000 EU national drivers going home, with only 600 returning, leading to ‘unsustainable pressure’ on supply chains

Of the UK HGV license holders in employment, the number is seven per cent less than in 2019, when 310,000 were working.

Over the last 12 months, the industry has seen a large number of drivers retiring, while the lockdown measures impacted the training of new drivers, with 40,000 HGV driver tests cancelled.

The average age of a UK lorry driver is put at 56 to 57 and not enough young people have joined the industry due to its long hours, unattractive conditions and poor pay.

The median hourly pay for drivers has increased by 10 per cent since 2015 to £11.80, which is below the 16 per cent rise for salaries across other sectors, and new tax changes are likely not in drivers’ favour.

HGV drivers are only permitted to drive for nine hours per day, but many are away from home for up to 15 hours a day, which is off-putting for many young people who do not want to work such hours.

The RHA said that of the hundreds of thousands of HGV drivers not employed could be because some may be training new drivers, or have moved professions, while others may be off sick, taking leave, or only working part-time.

Experts have issued warnings over a 'chronic lack of safe and secure parking spaces' for lorries which means more than 1,400 drivers sleep in their cabs each night. Logistics UK has urged the government to ensure there are adequate areas for drivers to take their legally mandated breaks, including short stops and overnight stays.

Haulage bosses claim that drivers are being forced to put themselves and their loads at risk, which is also a strong deterrent for new entrants into the sector, especially women.

Alex Veitch, general manager of Public Policy at Logistics UK, said: “In addition to recruiting, testing and training a new workforce of HGV drivers, it is imperative that government and industry listen to the feedback of those who have left a career in HGV driving and takes action accordingly. 

Poor facilities such as safe, secure rest places are a key issue for many of these drivers, and we call on government to deliver on its promised improvements to lorry parking.”

He added that there are other possible reasons why some individuals may hold HGV licenses beyond employment, such as for equestrian use, or drivers who have now moved into managerial roles.

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