Prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.K. was already experiencing a 2019 HGV or LGV driver shortfall of 59,000 operators, a number which has since risen to 76,000 over the course of 2020. The country presently employees 74 full-time driver examiners, and training schools are hoping that changes can be made so that the testing backlog can be cleared.
People in the South East are accustomed to seeing queues of lorry drivers, but these days, the waiting game starts prior to those operators even having a licence. The hauling industry shortfall is having substantial ripple effects everywhere, and prospective drivers are stuck in limbo while they wait to take their test.
Report of Statistics
Recent statistics indicate that the anticipated dip in GDP resulting from COVIL-19 could produce a 10% cut in LGV driver ranks over the next few years. This amounts to a loss of roughly 30,000. While this would theoretically ameliorate the aforementioned pre-COVID driver shortage, but there are other variables that could also reduce LGV driver numbers as well. These conditions could conceivably combine to make the entire situation much worse.
A prior report detailing the shortage indicated that the U.K. must keep a flow of new LGV drivers in the 40,000 range if the pool is to keep pace with current needs. However, COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions have caused the issuance of new passes to slow to a trickle, and DVSA testing sites may not function at a capacity greater than 60% until vaccines are widely deployed, which is not expected until the end of the first quarter of 2021.
What The Future May Hold
According to Kieran Smith, lockdown and testing site capacity limits have caused roughly 16,000 new passes to be lost thus far, and if the situation persists, the driver shortage is going to grow worse than ever before.
Smith added that it is possible that the LGV driver shortage could improve by approximately 10,000 operators, that is based on the assumption that foreign drivers are willing and able to continue driving inside the U.K. However, factors such as the new immigration provisions, Brexit, IR35 reforms, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis cast doubt on whether that will come to pass. If just 25% of foreign drivers decide to leave the country, there is little hope of easing the driver shortage stemming from the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.
Until year’s end, the blending of lockdown-related backlogs and holiday delivery needs will likely create a situation in which demand exceeds supply. Thereafter, Smith expects demand in the realm of LGV drivers will drop for the first half of 2021, as Brexit difficulties continue and IR35 reforms make their way to the private sector. His prediction is that the same type of driver shortage is certain to emerge again after market stabilisation occurs in the latter half of next year.
Driver Require is working to secure input from academics and industry leaders in order to gain a better grasp on how their calculations were derived in order to make accurate predictions about just how serious the problem is. Meanwhile, the LGV driver shortage shows no signs of abating anytime soon, and without deliberate action from the government, it may only get worse over the course of the next 18 months.