The driving sector has been a hot topic in recent weeks and months, particularly as the cumulative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit brings the Driver shortage to a critical point. If nothing else, it has highlighted how important the driving sector is to the UK economy and that Drivers are a necessary part of supply chains.
What current trends are we seeing in the driving sector?
Even in the years before the pandemic and Brexit there was a Driver shortage in the UK as demand increased, whilst the number of British Drivers didn’t. However, there was an increase in EU Drivers, which the UK industry became somewhat reliant on.
In 2020 the pandemic led to changes in many industries, driving being no exception. ONS data1 estimates that the total number of LGV (large goods vehicle, formerly HGV, heavy goods vehicle) Drivers fell from 304,000 in Quarter 1 of 2020 to 253,000 in Quarter 1 of 2021. Of these, there was a loss of about 39,000 UK Drivers and 12,000 EU Drivers. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates a current shortage of around 60,000 Drivers.
There are many reasons which could be attributed to this lack of Drivers. The drop in EU Drivers can certainly be, in part, because of Brexit and changes to immigration, but also some Drivers returned to their home countries during the pandemic and have not returned.
The reduction in British Drivers may be due to concerns about things such as hours, pay, and the lack of facilities. However, there are opportunities for flexible hours and some driving jobs can be family friendly. To find out more about Driver facilities and the best service stations in the UK, read our blog about truck Driver rest stops. There are some excellent career prospects for Drivers, and with experience you can expect an average salary of up to £28,000, even more if you have specialist driving skills.
HGV Drivers have an average age of 55, meaning retirement is a valid reason that many are leaving the profession. This means that more younger Drivers need to be encouraged into these driving roles. Due to the closure of testing facilities during the pandemic, the backlog of HGV tests has also contributed to the slower entry of new Drivers into the industry. Some driving roles also require specialist skills, such as training in petroleum logistics. The lack of trained and qualified Drivers became apparent in the fuel crisis in September 2021.
This shortage in HGV Drivers means the driving industry is suffering, which has a knock-on effect for many other industries, from manufacturing to retail and ultimately, the general public. There is concern that this will become a particular problem at peak times, such as the lead up to the festive season.
Whilst the numbers of HGV Drivers decreased, the increase in home shopping during the height of the pandemic saw a much-increased need for home Delivery Drivers, opening up more opportunities for Drivers without the requirements for advanced driving qualifications. Even as things have returned to a more normal state, people are continuing to shop online, meaning Delivery Drivers have become recognised as an even more important part of the workforce.
How are these trends impacting Drivers and driving jobs?
Whilst hearing about the lack of Drivers in the UK is negative news, it is important to recognise the positives, and the training and job opportunities that have arisen as a result.
Challenge – need for more new, younger Drivers.
Opportunity – new government measures to help people become HGV Drivers.
In September 2021 it was announced that the Department for Education (DfE) will be investing in skills bootcamps to train people to become HGV Drivers. These free intensive courses enable new Drivers to gain a Category C or Category C&E licence. You can find out more about how to train as an HGV Driver here.
Additionally, the Department for Transport (DfT) is working to ensure that tests are available as quickly as possible for those who have completed their training courses. The government will also provide funding for these licences for those who complete the HGV driving qualification in the academic year 2021/22.
Challenge – need for Drivers to return to the industry.
Opportunity – more opportunities for flexible working, incentive payments and bonuses.
The DfT is encouraging the return of HGV Drivers who have left the industry. In addition, some companies are offering payment incentives for qualified Drivers to sign up, bonuses on top of wages, and some are paying for Drivers to upgrade their licences. Trends are showing that average wages for Drivers are increasing as businesses work to encourage new employees. Find out what the highest paid driving jobs are here.
It is also possible to find driving jobs with more flexible working hours; they don’t all require long hours and days away from home. There are also opportunities for temporary jobs, especially in peak times, for those who don’t want to return to the industry long term.
Challenge – need for the return of non-UK Drivers.
Opportunity – new short-term visas.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are processing and issuing short-term visas for HGV Drivers to return to work in the UK from October to December 2021, to help ease the supply chain in the run up to Christmas. However, this is only a temporary measure, and the intention is that the government will continue to support the improvement of the driving industry to encourage more UK Drivers into or back to this profession.
Challenge – increased need for Delivery Drivers.
Opportunity – more local jobs available.
Local van driving jobs are a good way for anyone to enter the driving industry and the increase in online shopping means there are many more job opportunities in this sector. You can be a Delivery Driver with just a full UK driving licence for Category B vehicles and a minimum of one year’s driving experience. Learn more about being a Final Mile Delivery Driver here.
You can find out more about government plans for support for the driving industry here.
In addition to the jobs challenge, the driving sector has also seen changes to the work environment as a result of the pandemic, particularly with regards to hygiene and safety. You can read more about this here. As someone in a driving role, or considering this as a new career, you should also be aware of the physical aspects of the job.
Long term, the government continues to support the industry in solving the driver shortage issue through improved testing and hiring, with better pay, working conditions and diversity. This is a good time to take advantage of these opportunities and get into or return to the driving industry.
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- ONS.2021.Office for National Statistics.[Online].[October 2021].Available from here.