Finance

New figures show scale of UK HGV driver crisis


New data show the high number of HGV vacancies in one area of central Britain and the change since last year.

The statistics for Leicestershire lay bare the HGV driver shortage at a local level, with the number of lorry driver vacancies rocketing.

Growing concerns about deliveries of food and fuel – and fears of shortages upto and beyond Christmas caused by a lack of drivers – the government is introducing temporary visas for 5,000 fuel tanker and food lorry drivers to work in the UK.

The Army has begun helping to deliver fuel to petrol stations as shortages continue – with around 200 military personnel deployed.

One Leicestershire company, Translink Express Logistics, says it has had interest in recent weeks from dozens of potential candidates after offering fully funded training to bring more fresh recruits in.

It has offered to invest thousands of pounds in free training courses through Leicester-based Hughes Driver Training, one of the UK’s biggest HGV academies.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), the industry’s trade body, estimates a shortage of 100,000 drivers across the UK.

Now, figures from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) have revealed the extent of vacancies in Leicestershire.

In August, there were 273 vacancies for heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers advertised in the area.

While that was down from 312 vacancies in July, it was still 72 per cent higher than the 159 jobs advertised in February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic.

The shortfall has been put down to a combination of factors including wholesale cancelling of new tests due to the pandemic and EU drivers heading home post-Brexit.

An ageing workforce leaving the profession and its lack of appeal to young people have also been blamed.

The national crisis started in the summer, when supermarkets began to experience empty shelves – partly due to a shortage of lorry drivers.

Then in September, BP warned it would have to temporarily close some of its petrol stations, because of a lack of lorry drivers to actually transport fuel to the pumps.

Following that announcement, long queues started to appear outside petrol stations across Great Britain, amid fears that petrol might run out.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that nationally, around 313,000 people in the UK worked as HGV drivers in the last quarter of 2019.

That went down by 11 per cent to 278,218 in the last quarter of 2020.

Figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency show 23,997 tests took place in the financial year 2020/21, down 66 per cent from the 70,288 tests taken in 2019/20.

Both the pandemic and Brexit saw many European drivers return home – and haulage companies say very few have returned, with new immigration rules a factor.

A recent ONS survey shows almost half of the transport and storage businesses that were experiencing recruitment challenges mentioned the reduced number of EU applicants as a factor – the highest of any sector.

While the government has offered an emergency visa scheme to help alleviate the problem – which will allow firms to recruit fuel tanker drivers from overseas up to March 2022 – the Times reported, as of Tuesday (October 5), only 27 had applied, although the Prime Minister later said the number was 127.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone who works for a living deserves to earn a decent living.

“But wages and conditions in sectors like logistics have been driven down for years.

“That isn’t the fault of migrant workers – it’s the fault of a flawed economic model which relies on holding down workers’ rights and pay.

“Short-term visas are an inadequate sticking plaster. If we want to end this supply chain chaos, the government must give workers and their unions more bargaining power to negotiate better pay and conditions.

“Worker shortages needn’t be a long-term feature of post-Brexit, post-pandemic Britain. But we need an economy that puts working people’s interests first.”

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