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Statistically, HGV drivers were in short supply in 2019 to the tune of 59,000. That figure has risen dramatically in 2020 to 76,000. There are currently just 74 examiners working full-time and a long waiting list. Training schools are not about to make any changes that will cut the waiting list down.
In the South East, queues of lorry drivers are a familiar sight and now potential drivers are expected to wait before they are even able to obtain their HGV driver training and licence. The shortage of full-time examiners is contributing greatly to the shortfall that the haulage industry is facing.
According to a report from Driver Require, the predicted fall in GDP as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic will result in a further 10% reduction in HGV driver employment numbers (around 30,000) in the next 2 years. In theory, this should offset the previous driver shortage. However, other factors need to be taken into consideration that may potentially reduce the current available pool beyond the reduced demand. A combined timing of these factors could further aggravate the problem.
In order to keep the driver pool at current levels, Driver Require detailed in a previous white paper regarding Driver Shortage that an influx of 40,000 new LGV passes need to be issued in the UK. However, Lockdown and other Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in fewer and fewer new entrants. The DVSA testing facilities are set to continue operating at 60% capacity until such a date that a vaccine is available which is currently forecast for the first quarter of 2021.
Kieran Smith explains that the capacity restrictions and lockdown regulations for testing sites have resulted in the loss of more than 16,000 new passes to date. Should testing facilities continue to operate at 60% capacity until a vaccine has been deployed, this will result in a further loss of 14,000 new passes – resulting in a loss of 30,000 in total.
The current best-case scenario is that the deficiency in UK LGV drivers will decrease by approximately 10,000 but only if foreign drivers continue to operate in the UK. This is an unlikely scenario as multiple factors are in play to alienate them – new immigration laws, IR35 reforms, Brexit and above all, Covid-19. Only one quarter of foreign drivers need to exit in order to entirely prevent any easing of the driver shortage that is a direct result of the Covid-19 recession.
What Will Happen In 2021?
Demand is more than likely to continue to exceed supply until the end of the year resulting from backlogs due to Lockdown and the requirements of the Winter Peak season. Smith predicts that the new year will see LGV driver numbers plummeting as Brexit continues to unravel and the IR35 reform are rolled out in the private sector. The second half of 2021 is probably not going to be any better as the LGV market begins to stabilise.
In order to predict the extent of the problem more accurately, Driver Require is integrating support from academics and industry experts to provide greater clarity on the factors affecting the calculations. For now, it seems unlikely that the LGV driver shortage will diminish in any meaningful way. In fact, there is a greater probability that it will get worse periodically over the next 18 months – barring determined intervention by the Government.