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HGV driver shortage remains ‘severe’ according to Q4 2021 data

Driver Require's Think Tank latest Bulletin on the Driver Shortage quoted by The Leaders Council

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Written by

Claire Smith

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The latest data published by the Office for National Statistics [ONS] covering the fourth quarter [Q4] of 2021 indicates that the HGV driver shortage remains at ‘severe’ level, and that there are some worrying underlying dynamics within the HGV delivery workforce.

In the wake of the release of the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey [QLFS] results for October to December 2021 by the ONS, specialist driver recruitment agency, Driver Require, has this week released its latest bulletin providing new insight into the HGV driver shortage in the UK. The agency has closely studied the latest set of QLFS results and provided in the bulletin a thorough evaluation of the driver shortage, which delivers a positive and insightful set of conclusions.

Kieran Smith, CEO of Driver Require and author of the bulletin, commented: “The latest QLFS data shows that the UK’s HGV driver shortage appears to have stabilised at ‘severe’ status, which is a relief after the critical shortage during the summer of last year. We believe the reason it didn’t return to ‘critical’ status was due to pre-Christmas peak demand for haulage services being constrained by a combination of staff shortages in other areas, such as warehouse staff and van drivers, a shortage of HGV vehicles, and general supply chain disruption.

“In our last bulletin, we observed that there was worryingly high churn in the under-45s age group. The Q4 numbers confirm our suspicion that the real problem is with the under-30s age group which, having grown steadily from 15,000 to 30,000 over the previous 10 years, plummeted to a record low of 12,000 at the end of 2021. This represents an unacceptably high 67 per cent churn rate in 2021 and makes up more than half of the net churn of the entire HGV delivery workforce throughout the pandemic.

“We are extremely concerned because we are relying on this younger contingent to replenish the aging workforce. We believe that this acceleration in churn of the under-30s was due to them being lured away by wage increases in other job roles with more attractive working conditions. On a positive note, the 50 per cent increase in HGV test capacity in Q4 has helped avoid what would have been an even worse scenario. This higher testing throughput contributed to encouraging growth in the 30-to-45 age group, but only just enough to offset the losses in the under-30 and over-45 age groups.

“While we are really encouraged that the shortage seems to have stabilised, we absolutely can’t sit back and relax. Our sector, in collaboration with the government, must make a concerted effort to address the issue of retention, especially in the younger age group. This will require coordinated and unified action to improve HGV driver working hours and conditions and provide more quality secure HGV parking facilities – along with other measures to prevent drivers from leaving the workforce.”

In its analysis of the current state of the haulage sector, the latest Driver Require think tank bulletin made several conclusions:

• The total number of HGV delivery drivers increased only slightly from Q3 to Q4, rising by 2,000 to 263,000, this being 39,000 lower than the pre-pandemic level of 301,000 in Q1 2020.

• The number of EU HGV drivers increased by 3,000 to 33,000 in Q4, this being 4,000 lower than the pre-pandemic level of 37,000 in Q1 2020.

• The number HGV tests conducted in Q4 was 27,000, an increase of 50 per cent on the pre-pandemic average quarterly level of 18,000.

• In Q4, 8,000 drivers left the under-30 age group, which, in combination with previous pandemic losses, reduced it to 13,000 from a pre-pandemic level of 31,000, this being a churn of 67 per cent when net additions from new test passes were factored in.

• On a positive note, 12,000 ‘lapsed’ drivers returned to the 30-to-45 age group, complemented by 3,000 new HGV test passes.

• The over-45 group shrank by 8000 in Q4, which Driver Require believes was a stabilisation of this age group following the substantial recovery of numbers in Q3.

• Driver Require concludes that rising wage rates seem to have attracted back and retained the over-30s age group, but that the under-30s have left for other job roles with better working conditions and hours despite the attractive HGV salary levels. It has been judged essential that the industry tackles the under-30 age group retention rate as a matter of priority.

Read the full article by Scott Chalinor, The Leaders Council

Download the latest Bulletin on the driver shortage and all recent Driver Require reports

Monday 7th March 2022

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