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Green shoots for HGV driver shortage, but we’re not there yet
Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy, Logistics UK
There has been much focus in the last year on the shortage of skilled logistics workers, in particular HGV drivers, and therefore, we anticipate much scrutiny of the figures reported in Logistics UK’s seventh Skills & Employment Report. The latest figures for Q3 2021 show there are 44,000 fewer HGV drivers in employment, a fall of 14% compared with Q3 2019. However, this is less than the Q2 reduction of 72,000 (23.4%). So, while we’re still seeing a reduction in drivers, this reduction is slowing.
Logistics UK follows an evidence-based approach to policy so that our policies are acceptable to decision makers. As well as having valid data, we have to be accurate in how we interpret it to ensure we put our focus on the right areas. This is one of the reasons we commission the report from an independent research consultancy, Repgraph, who are very skilled at processing large databases, then scrutinizing and distilling the data to become readily understood information to support policy work. They are experts in logistics and employment data.
We have this year decided to make some changes in how we measure the driver shortage. There is no definitive method for calculating a figure for driver shortage, as direct measurement is not possible since it is very difficult to estimate the absence of something. We will be moving away from measuring the absence of workers to measuring the presence of workers as estimated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This means we are using an index of the number of HGV drivers in employment as this represents the actual job estimates rather than an absence of workers. Deriving an actual driver shortage figure is not as essential as the ability to track its movement over time using a consistent measurement methodology.
We can take some positives from the Skills & Employment Report, indicators of green shoots giving hope of improvements in the future. My team has been pushing this year for the government to take action to ease some of the barriers for drivers, and there are early signs of improvement. For example, HGV driver testing increased by 25.6% in Q3 this year compared to Q3 2019 and the number of applications for provisional licences are reported to be three times higher than pre-pandemic levels. With it taking approximately three months to train a driver and another three months to be fully operational, we should begin to see improvements shortly. And next year will see the delivery of government-funded Bootcamps for an additional 5,000 drivers.
In the meantime, industry has made adaptations to mitigate the impact of vacancies further, such as through consolidated deliveries, fewer deliveries and fewer ranges of products. Companies have also taken action, such as increasing pay, with our own data finding an 18% pay increase since the beginning of year (nine months to Q3), and for some classes of HGV the rate of increase has hit 29%.
Hopefully we’ll continue to see more progress on our policy solutions, to support those green shoots, and we are pushing for better driving facilities, an immigration policy that enables the economy to thrive and further government investment in training. I remain hopeful that we will see some of the benefits of the action taken this year in our 2022 report.
The Skills & Employment Report is available to download at the link below.
Published On: 16/12/2021 16:00:44