HGV Driver

‘Cautious optimism’ driver shortage is easing

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - 00:06
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Logistics employers are starting to see the green shoots of recovery, according to a report from Logistics UK, published this week.

Its Skills Report 2021 reveals that “significant steps” have been taken to help address the recruitment crisis, with government and industry working together to increase capacity to test new drivers, provide new training schemes and commit to improving HGV driver facilities on the road network.

Wage hikes have also helped, with the report noting a “significant” rise in HGV driver pay rates. It states: “Various sources suggest driver pay increases ranged from 7.8% in Q2 2021 compared with Q2 2019 to 18.3% in the nine months to Q3 2021 with some classes of HGV drivers averaging 28.8% increases in advertised salaries.

“However, to sustain salary increases of this level, more value needs to be placed in the service that logistics provides to the economy, and logistics must be paid for the work that it does. As costs to the sector rise, the pressure on margins will increase.”

The report also warns that raising drivers wages is not a panacea to the industry’s problems. It states: “There is a long-term shortage of more than 1,400 safe and secure parking spaces for drivers to use when taking their legally mandated rest breaks.

“Government has a key role to play in improving existing facilities and ensuring new facilities are opened on the busiest parts of the road network to match the facilities which drivers enjoy at home with those they have to use during their working lives.”

Elizabeth de Jong, policy director at Logistics UK said that while the report shows there has been progress, there is still much work to be done.

“The flexibility and resilience of our sector in coping with a smaller workforce, coupled with issues caused by Brexit and supply chain disruption caused by worldwide container shipping issues, have been incredible.

“And with higher wages now helping to plug the gaps in employment for companies which can afford them and an increase in HGV driver tests of 25.6% and three-fold increase in applications for vocational provisional licences, there is hope that the shortage of HGV drivers will ease.”

De Jong cautioned against complacency, pointing out that although average driver pay surged 10% in the nine months to October 2021, smaller fleet operators are still struggling to recruit staff in what has become a highly competitive market.

She praised the government’s swift response in recent months to the driver shortage crisis but warned that the government needs to ensure these plans are delivered.

“Government announcements to help address issues across our sector, including increasing driver testing throughput, funding Skills Bootcamps to train HGV drivers and a commitment to improved overnight parking provision, have been at pace.

“There needs to be continued focus from government to ensure they are delivered, so business and industry can take full advantage and continue to raise awareness of logistics and the opportunities it offers.”

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