The Impact of COVID-19 on LGV Driver Shortage in the UK

The UK experienced a shortage of HGV drivers in 2019 to the tune of 59,000. That figure has ballooned to 76,000 a year later. Currently, the country has 74 full-time examiners, which is a wanting situation that has many HGV training courses advocating for change, as it may affect the cost of HGV training in the UK. The changes see them cut the wait and rest.

Long queues or lorry drivers is an all too familiar thing in the South East, but things are getting worse. The wait starts even before the drivers get their license. Moreover, the heavy cargo transport industry is experiencing a significant shortage of drivers that amounts to the thousands. Individuals interested in being LGV drivers are queuing up waiting to take the test that qualifies them for the profession. Still, things are sluggish because there are only 74 full-time examiners in the UK.

According to a report from Driver Require, a drop in GDP is looming, and it is linked to the impact COVID-19 dealt economically to the country and globally. The pandemic is estimated to causes a 10% LGV driver employment reduction (by nearly 30,000 drivers) within the next few years. Theoretically, this could help offset the perceived short of over 50,000 LGV drivers before corona pandemic. However, it also is projected that some factors are at play that can reduce the existing pool of drivers beyond the anticipated demand. Moreover, these factors’ timing could align and exasperate the situation.

Information from a white-paper from Driver Require suggested that the country need to maintain a flow of roughly 40,000 new LGV passes to maintain the current level of the driving pool. However, the mandated lockdown has contributed to a drop in the rate of new passes given that DSVA testing facilities are operating at about 60% capacity until forecast vaccine is deployed around the end of the first quarter of 2021.

According to Kieran Smith, capacity restrictions at testing locations linked to the lockdown are contributed to the loss of nearly 16,000 new passes. Smith further reiterates that the industry faces the loss of another 14,000 new passes if the training and testing continues are the 60% capacity until the successful deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine. That means the LGV industry will contend with a total loss of about 30,000.

At best, the LGV driver shortage in the United Kingdom may improve the deficit, reducing it by roughly 10,000 drivers assuming the foreign drivers keep working in the UK. It is an optimistic assumption in the face of mounting factors, such as IR35reform, Brexit, and the new immigration rules, that are likely to alienate them. It is possible to ease the shortage occasioned by the COVID-19 recession if only a quarter of the foreign LGV drivers leave.

Between now and the close of the year, post-lockdown backlogs and the winter peak requirements will result in higher demand and low supply. It is a projection that Smith predicts will see the LGV-driver demand plunge in the first half of 2021 as IR35 reforms roll out in the private sector and Brexit unravels. Moreover, Smith forecasts that the shortage of LGV drivers could pop up again when the market steadies in the second half of 2021.

Driver Require is enlisting support from academics and industry experts to help achieve greater clarity regarding factors that make their calculations, for better and accurate predictions of the extent of the challenges at hand. Meanwhile, the LGV driver shortage is not likely to diminish soon given the current situation. It most likely is expected to worsen in the coming 18 months if the government does not intervene.