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Report finds UK’s lorry driver shortage “low-level”, but “bleak outlook” lies ahead

Driver Require has published its latest research on the UK's lorry driver shortage.

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Written by

Kieran Smith

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Driver Require has published its latest research on the UK's lorry driver shortage. The agency's new report concludes that the UK HGV driver workforce has remained stable for the fourth successive quarter, and that the status-quo is a chronic low-level shortage. However, Driver Require also warns of a “bleak outlook" that could see market forces exacerbate the shortage and create another crisis.

The latest ONS data cited in the report comes from Q1 of this year. The figures indicate that the overall UK HGV driver pool has shrunk slightly from 307,000 in Q4 2022 to 304,000 in Q1 2023.

However, Driver Require adds that it is “worth noting that the overall driver pool has remained stable at approximately this level since Q2 2022, after it had recovered from the 2021 driver shortage crisis”.

The agency also stressed that the workforce numbering approximately 300,000 is equivalent to the steady state level pre-covid.

Moreover, the report found that the amount of LGV drivers who are EU nationals working in the UK has returned to levels seen before Britain’s exit from the European Single Market.

“What’s interesting is that the number of EU nationality drivers peaked at 50,000 in December 2022 in line with the peak Christmas period, demonstrating that the European contingent is still providing elasticity of supply to match significant variances in demand,” says Driver Require.

When it comes to what age groups make up the UK’s lorry driving workforce, Driver Require states:

“We observe that the number of drivers in each band has not shifted much at all throughout most of 2022 and into 2023. From Q2 2022 – Q1 2023 the driver pool has been stable for each of the different age bands. If anything, the under 30s band, which during the pandemic seemed to be significantly depleted, has recovered to above its pre-pandemic levels which is encouraging as this is an important group of drivers; they constitute the new blood who will replace the ageing contingents.”

In its concluding remarks in the report, Driver Require writes that the UK continues to have low-level driver shortage with “seasonal fluctuations where we have a surplus of drivers in the first half of the year and a shortage in the second half”.

However, the driver agency also expressed a number of concerns for the future. Touching on the trend of older drivers retiring and less younger truckers coming in to replace them, Driver Require said:

“This churn will increase as inflation erodes the salary increases achieved in 2021 until eventually another shortage crisis will occur. The sector can avoid this by maintaining driver pay rates, improving working conditions and attracting more younger drivers into the workforce. This will be hard to achieve in the face of hostile economic forces, such as powerful consolidated buyers, rising fuel costs coupled with rising core inflation, and the need to invest in zero-carbon technologies and fleet.”

This, says Driver Require, is a “bleak outlook”.

The driver agency nevertheless adds that it is “encouraged” to see the government investing in roadside HGV services and schemes such as Generation Logistics.

Wednesday 26th July 2023

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