Britain’s demand for HGV drivers is soaring – but the number of trained drivers is plummeting

MPs have already warned that the shortage of heavy goods drivers is a ‘ticking time-bomb’ under the UK’s economic recovery.

Here’s how the problem has unfolded:

What is an HGV driver?

You need a special license to drive vehicles weighing over 3,500kg. The job involves being in charge of a large goods vehicle and being responsible for delivery of goods nationally or internationally, which can involve loading and unloading, navigation and perhaps sleeping in your cab. Most drivers work for a manufacturer, distributor or road haulage firm for an average of 48 hours a week, although drivers can’t spend more than nine hours per day on the road. However, they can work more hours on non-driving duties.

Why is there a shortage?

It’s not easy to get a commercial licence. Training and testing can cost around £3,000. Morale is low among truckers who complain of increased regulation and medical requirements, poor working conditions, road aggression and low prestige. Pay has lagged a long way behind equivalent careers, like plumbers and electricians. The cost of insurance dissuades companies from employing young drivers so the average age of an HGV driver is now 53.

How bad is the shortage?

There is current shortfall of 60,000 drivers, which could rise to 257,000 by 2022. Increasing numbers of drivers are being imported from Eastern Europe and only 2 per cent of our commercial drivers are under 25. A huge proportion of UK truckers are due to retire soon.

Why is the shortage important?

Road transport fuels economic growth and feeds our increasing reliance on home deliveries. But the Road Haulage Association says that the driver shortage and the high cost of fuel are seriously endangering Britain’s economy. 

What could be done?

Drivers’ pay and conditions could be improved. The government could reduce red tape and even provide grants to allow young drivers to get HGV qualifications. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is campaigning for student-style loans and a campaign to boost the image of truck driving. This could address the issue and help provide more young drivers.

So all in all, as we can see here, there is a real need for more HGV drivers regardless of age, but in order to future-proof this industry, young drivers need to be recruited - and quickly!