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HGV driver pay has surged by 12%, Logistics UK’s Skills and Employment Update reveals

While there were 49,000 fewer HGV drivers in employment in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared with the same time in 2019, HGV driver pay has surged by nearly 12% in the 12 months to January, while advertised salaries increased by more than a fifth (21%) in the year to Q4 2021.

These are the findings of Logistics UK’s Skills and Employment Update, published last week (16 February 2022) and informed by the latest data from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS).


Although there are now more employees on payrolls than prior to the pandemic, employment overall is lower, as there are fewer self-employed people. Vacancies have reached a record high, but a dearth of specific skills is limiting the ability of firms to fill them.

The UK has experienced chronic (slow to develop and long-lasting) and acute (sudden and short-lived) phases of the driver shortage. The origins of the chronic shortage lie in the 2008-09 recession, which led to many drivers permanently leaving the industry. The current acute phase is due to the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the post-Brexit reduction in the number of EU workers in the UK.

The number of drivers in employment fell 49,000 to 265,000 from Q4 2019 to Q4 2021, according to the QLFS, meaning the workforce is 15.6% smaller than it was before the pandemic. However, as this is broadly similar to the fall of 44,000 or 14% seen in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 in 2019, it indicates that numbers appear to be stabilising, following a fall of 72,000 seen in Q2 2021.


HGV drivers have a significantly older age profile than the general population, with an average age of 51 years. Of concern to the logistics industry is the shortage of younger people training to become HGV drivers. There are some signs that recruitment initiatives to attract younger drivers are working for those switching careers (age 30-34) rather than younger career starters (age 25-29). This is borne out by the profile of the 10,000 applicants for the government-funded HGV Skills Bootcamps, with most applicants falling in the age 30-41 range.


In order to retain existing staff and attract new drivers, logistics companies have had to increase pay. A surge in both pay and vacancies began in July 2021 as companies prepared for the peak season for road haulage (late Q3 and Q4).

Sarah Watkins, Deputy Director – Policy Information, Logistics UK, said: “The vacancies the logistics sector is now struggling to fill tend to be in important roles designated as ‘low skilled’. However, as has been seen during the pandemic, logistics workers are vital to the successful functioning of the UK economy – one of the reasons they were classed as key workers.

“While occupations that experience the most significant labour shortages typically bounce back following pay increases, HGV driver numbers are not following classic supply-demand elasticity owing to the qualification barrier. The training that non-HGV drivers need to enter the profession requires significant time and money and currently constitutes a major barrier to entry.”


Published On: 24/02/2022 16:00:30


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