In 2019, the UK experienced a shortage of about 59,000 HGV drivers. In 2020, the number has increased to 76,000. Currently, there are 74 full-time examiners in the entire country. HGV training UK schools are demanding changes to reduce the waiting time before people can take the test.
In South East, there is a familiar story of lorry drivers in long queues. However, they have to wait before they can get their license. When this happens, the haulage industry continuously faces a shortfall of drivers, in the thousands. A lot of clients are waiting for a long time to take the tests because there are only 74 full-time examiners in the entire country.
Due to COVID-19, there was a significant drop in GDP. It has also led to a 10% reduction in the employment of LGV drivers (about 30,000 drivers) and the same could ripple for the next few years. It might offset the expected loss of 50,000 LGV drivers as expected before COVID-19 struck. However, there are also other factors in play that might reduce the pool considerably compared to the demand. It’s also possible that these factors could combine and exaggerate the conditions.
A previous report mentioned that there should be a flow of 40,000 new entrants in the UK every year to ensure that the driving pool remains steady. However, due to the lockdown, the new LGV passes have dried up and the DVSA testing facilities can’t operate above 60% capacity until a vaccine is invented.
According to Kieran Smith, the lockdown and capacity restrictions have resulted in a loss of 16,000 new passes. If the training facility continues working at 60% capacity until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19 in place, they are likely going to lose another lot of 14,000 passes. They could add up to 30,000 with time.
Hopefully, the LGV driver shortage in the UK might improve because the deficit will decrease by around 10,000 HGV drivers. However, this is with the assumption that foreign drivers will continue working in the UK. It’s quite an optimistic notion with there being so many mounting factors that will alienate them such as the new immigration rules, Brexit and the IR35 reform as well as COVID-19. If a quarter of the foreign drivers leave, it will bring more issues counting the shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the first place.
With the end of 2020 almost here, the combination of lockdown backlogs and requirements for the winter season, the demand is likely going to exceed the supply. Within the first 6 months of 2021, the demand for LGV drivers will reduce considerably as the IR35 reforms are rolled out in the private sector while Brexit unravels. Driver shortage will start happening again as the LGV market stabilises in the second part of 2021.
There is a need for industry experts and academics to get the best clarity on the factors they use in their calculations so they can predict the problem accurately. However, the LGV driver shortage might not diminish immediately. It might actually become worse in the next 18 months unless there’s government intervention. All in all, we need to brace ourselves for a very long and tiring winter, especially as the coronavirus pandemic is still being handled.