10th May 2022

Is the UK truck driver shortage recovering?

The UK's truck driver shortage in 2021 was a hot topic - with petrol stations, supermarkets and the pharmaceutical industry coming under intense supply chain stress. The lack of drivers has been a growing issue, but many catalysts added to the national driving deficits in 2020 and 2021. 

However, the government introduced 33 actions to rectify the situation. This article will explore if the action plan has been a success and if the UK truck driver shortfall is easing. 

How serious is the shortage of lorry drivers?

The BBC reported in October 2021 that there was a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK. The RHA described the number of factors adding to the driver shortage as the 'perfect storm', and this included Covid, an ageing workforce, Brexit, and a backlog of driving tests. 

During the shortage peak, Tesco revealed that the driver deficits created 48 tonnes of food waste each week - equating to two truckloads. Across the UK, 18 councils also experienced disruptions to their bin collections due to the lack of lorry drivers.  

And who can forget about the fuel crisis in 2021? Traffic jams and rising fuel prices morphed into closed forecourts as petrol stations waited for drivers to top up their reserves. Panic buying put extreme supply chain pressure on the HGV industry, and there were not enough drivers to quickly solve the problem. 

Why is there a truck driver shortage? 

As we mentioned earlier, the UK's lorry driver shortage has been developing for years, but Covid and Brexit proved to be the root causes that exacerbated the situation. 

Covid-19 and the combination of multiple national lockdowns saw the cancellation of 40,000 HGV driving tests in the UK, which meant minimal new drivers were joining the industry. Sky News said 25,000 fewer candidates passed their HGV driving test in 2020 compared to 2019. With limited numbers of new drivers and the average age of current UK truck drivers being 53, it highlighted the growing issue within the sector. 

After the disruption of Covid came the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. Brexit was the reason behind 20,000 EU drivers leaving the UK, citing the "uncertainty of Brexit and future rights to live and work in the UK" as the main reasons for their departure. 

The decline in the Great British pound against the Euro since Brexit has also made it less appealing to work in the UK for EU nationals. 

How are new drivers being tempted into the industry?

To improve the number of HGV drivers throughout the UK, pay increases of up to 29% have made the job more attractive - with some reports suggesting that lorry drivers can earn up to £50,000 a year

Truckstop facilities have been the subject of scrutiny, but the government have pledged to improve roadside facilities throughout the UK. They have set aside £20 million to upgrade safety, security, lighting and shower rooms at roadside services for HGV drivers. 

The government is also investing in 'skills boot camps' across the UK. Up to 5,000 individuals are provided with a free 16-week training course to become professional HGV drivers. New and improved apprenticeship schemes are also targeting younger generations in the industry. 

In the build-up to Christmas last year, the government granted temporary visas for over 5,000 EU truck drivers to help address delivery concerns around the festive season. 

According to analysis from the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey data, the UK's HGV driver shortage remains chronic, but the number of drivers in employment is not falling as significantly as in recent quarters. Logistics UK have expressed cautious optimism that Government and industry initiatives are starting to yield results. 

Are more HGV drivers joining the industry?

Thankfully, applications for provisional HGV licences are three times higher than pre-pandemic levels, and there has been a 25.6% increase in driver testing compared to 2019. The increase in successful driver tests is partly thanks to the Department for Transport (DfT), which agreed to work with the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) to ensure that tests are available as soon as possible. 

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has also deployed its Defence Driving Examiners to increase the UK's testing capacity. 


The government intervention is helping as more HGV drivers join the industry, but we're not out of the woods yet. There are still tens of thousands of vacancies across the UK, and unless the issue is addressed, and drivers' voices are heard, it's unlikely to change overnight. 

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