Cause for ‘cautious optimism’ on driver shortage

By Categories: NewsPublished On: Thursday 2 June 2022

Truck drivers’ wages are contin­uing to rise, amidst signs that industry recruitment and train­ing initiatives are beginning to have a tangible effect in less­ening the severity of the HGV driver shortfall.

Speaking at the Microlise Transport Conference last month, the transport minister Baroness Vere said the driver shortage was an international problem, and that there were now 33 measures in place to alleviate the shortage in the UK.

DVLA was now prioritising processing vocational licences, while DVSA chief executive Loveday Ryder said that in the last five months more Cat C and C+E examiners had been trained than would have been trained in a normal year.

Meanwhile, Logistics UK said in May that while the driver shortage remained ‘chronic’ according to its latest analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, it was cautiously optimistic that initiatives rolled out by government and industry from the latter part of 2021 onwards were beginning to bear fruit.

While the number of HGV driv­ers in employment, according to ONS’s Labour Force Survey, fell by an estimated 30,300 in the first quarter of this year, Logis­tics UK pointed out that this was less of a reduction than in the second half of 2021, which saw falls of 44,000 and 49,000 in Q3 and Q4 respectively.

The trade body also pointed to improved throughput at DVSA testing facilities; 26,388 practical HGV tests were conducted in the first quarter of this year, 43 per cent up on the same period in 2019.

In March 2022, a record 10,481 tests were undertaken, 60 per cent of which yielded passes.

In addition, said Logistics UK, driver wage increases were helping to retain existing staff and attract new recruits, with advertised salaries for those qualified to drive the heaviest trucks increasing by 25 per cent on average in Q1 of this year compared with those of a year ago.

“Government and industry have worked hard to address the key issues which have affected the recruitment of HGV drivers in the past,” said Sarah Watkins, deputy director for policy information at Logistics UK.

“The reduction in numbers of HGV drivers in employment, generally caused by retirements or shifts into other careers, slowed in the first quarter of 2022, compared with the second half of 2021, which illustrates how actions such as increased wages for drivers, drivers’ skills bootcamps and improved throughputs of testing by DVSA are beginning to address the loss of skilled workers which we have seen in the recent past.”

Watkins added that the large increase in HGV test numbers was “testament to the work being done by DVSA” to address its backlog, alongside the industry’s own efforts to encourage new recruits.

“Simultaneously, the very low number of HGV drivers claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell 70 per cent from Q1 2019 to Q1 2022, indicating that there are hardly any surplus HGV drivers available for work,” she continued, adding: “What the industry now needs is a renewed focus on the improvement of facilities for drivers across the strategic roads network, to provide the services and support which these key workers deserve during their working lives.”