Back in 2019, the UK experienced an HGV driver shortage of 59,000; and this number has grown to over 76,000 in 2020. Today, the UK has 74 full-time examiners across the UK, and as such, HGV training courses are looking for changes so that they can reduce the delay to take a test.
In the South East, HGV driver queuing is a familiar thing. The queue is long and starts before a driver get their licence. Let’s not forget that learners are waiting to take a test because there are just 74 full-time examiners across the country. For these reasons, the shipping industry is experiencing a shortage of drivers.
According to a report by the Driver Require; the foreseen drop in the country’s GDP because of COVID-19 may result in a 10% reduction in HGV driver employment number (this is approximately 30,000 drivers) for the next few years. In theory, this will help balance out the apparent pre-COVID driver shortage of over 50,000. The document also included other factors that go beyond a drop in demand. The timing of other factors could combine to accelerate the condition.
According to another document detailing the driver shortage issue by the Driver Require showed that the UK needs to maintain a flow of 40,000 new HGV recruits (those qualified) to keep up with the demands of the industry. However, the flow of new recruits was interfered with by the Lockdown imposed in the UK and currently, it looks that the DVSA examining facilities will not function above a capacity of 60% until the moment when the vaccine has been deployed.
“Because of the lockdown and capacity restrictions at testing sites, we have lost over 16,000 new passes so far. If things continue this way until the vaccine is deployed, we will lose another 14,000 new passes, bringing it to a total of 30,000”, according to Kieran Smith explaining in the bulletin.
He continued by saying “at best, the UK HGV driver shortage may improve by about 10,000 drivers, but assuming that foreign drivers remain working in the UK. Well, this is an optimistic assumption, given that the current situation and factors are likely to alienate them.” It is important to note that these are factors that include IR35 Reform, Brexit Immigration rules, and the new, constantly changing COVID-19 Regulations. He added, “As things stand right now, we only need a quarter of foreign drivers to leave to completely eliminate any easing of shortage as a result of the COVID-19 recession.”
A combination of post lockdown backlog together with winter peak, from now to the end of the year should lead to demand exceeding supply. According to Smith’s prediction, the demand for HGV drivers will decrease in the first 6 months of 2021. After this, the driver shortage will come back when the HGV market stabilises again in the second half of the year.
The Driver Require is soliciting the support of academics and industry experts with the aim of trying to get clarity on factors used to make calculations, in order to get a more accurate prediction of the problem extent. However, today it would be a miracle to see the HGV driver shortage decrease; if anything, it could become worse as time goes by unless the Government Intervene.