In 2019 in the UK, the shortage of HGV drivers reached 59,000. However, in 2020 this number has increased to 76,000. Currently, there are 74 full-time examiners across the entire country including HGV training in Guildford. Training schools want changes now so that the wait time for taking a test can be reduced.
In the South East, it is a familiar sight to see lorry drivers queuing. However, even before drivers get their licences, the wait starts. The haulage industry is currently faced with a shortfall of drivers in the thousands. Because there are only 74 full-time examiners for the entire country. clients are having to queue up to wait to take their tests.
It was concluded by the Driver Require’s report that the predicted decrease in GDP caused by the effects of COVID-19 might also cause a 10% decrease in the employment numbers of LGV drivers (around 30,000 drivers) over the next few years. In theory, that would help to offset the perceived shortage of more than 50,000 LGV drivers pre-COVID-19. However, there are also other factors involved that can potentially reduce the LGV driver available pool beyond the reduction in demand. The timing of the factors could also possibly exaggerate conditions even further.
In an earlier white paper from Driver Require detailing the Driver Shortage, it was established that an inflow of 40,000 new entrants of new LGV passes needs to be maintained by the UK to keep its driving pool at the current level. However, new passes have dried up since the Lockdown, and it looks as if the DVSA testing facilities will not be operating over 60% capacity until the deployment of a vaccine (which is currently forecasted for the end of Quarter 1 of 2021).
In the bulletin, Kieran Smith explains that due to the lockdown and testing site capacity restrictions, so far we have effectively lost more than 16,000 new passes. If the test and training capacity continues to run at about 60% until the successful deployment of a vaccine, then an additional 14,000 new passes could be lost, which brings it to around 30,000 total.
The LGV driver shortage in the UK, at best, may improve by about 10,000 drivers (a decrease in the deficit). However, that assumes that foreign drivers will continue working within the UK. That assumption is optimistic given the number of factors that continue to mount to alienate them, including the new immigration rules, Brexit, IR25 reform, and now COVID-10. Only a quarter of those foreign drivers need to leave to totally wipe out any easing of the current shortage that the COVID-19 recession has caused.
From now until the end of the year, the combination of Winter Peak requirements and post Lockdown backlogs should result in supply being exceeded by demand. Smith predicts LGV driver demand will then drop in 2021 during the first six months until Brexit has been unraveled and the IR35 reforms have been rolled out within the Private Sector. Smith then predicts that the driver shortage will re-emerge once the LGV market has stabilised during the second part of 2021.
Driver Require has enlisted support from academics and industry to get more clarity on the factors used for making its calculations to be able to predict the extent of this problem more accurately. In the meantime, it is hard to see the shortage of LGV drivers diminishing in any significant way, and, in fact, could become worse periodically over the next 18 months unless the Government intervenes.