What the UK driver shortage means for you
The lack of lorry and heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers is being felt everywhere – we see it on the news, and in the queues at the petrol pumps. But what’s the impact on delivery drivers and private hire drivers, and could there be opportunities amid the chaos?
The following information is correct at the time of writing on 28 September 2021.
The threat of empty shelves was always up there among the predicted short-term consequences of Brexit.
What hadn’t been widely expected though was that when empty shelves became reality over the summer, it would be due to a shortage of drivers.
The UK’s departure from the EU at the start of 2021 and the effects of Covid-19, among other factors, left the UK with a shortfall of around 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK over the summer.
By early September there were warnings the crisis would last into Christmas, with rising demand for goods adding to the strain on the haulage industry. Nando’s, Greggs, and McDonald’s fell low on stock and some places had to close as a result, while products such as beer, milkshakes, furniture, and certain building materials are increasingly in short supply. The chief executive of the Co-Op described the shortages as the “worst” he had seen.
In the past few days, the HGV driver shortage led to some petrol stations having to close, and the news reports which followed have seen the panic buying of fuel in many forecourts across the UK.
Why has this happened?
The reasons for the HGV driver shortage have been hotly debated. Brexit has played a part, with many EU drivers going back to their home countries before and during the pandemic. Due to new immigration rules, some have been unable or unwilling to return.
Official data shows that of the 14,000 or so EU lorry drivers that left the UK for their home countries in the year to June 2020, just 600 had returned by July 2021.
There are other factors too. Demand for drivers surged with the dramatic shift to online shopping during the pandemic, meaning supply chains around the world were stretched to breaking point.
Amid rising alarm, the government has taken emergency steps to address the issue. Two separate tests for rigid lorries and for articulated lorries, usually taken three weeks apart, will now be combined into one single test. The government thinks that could allow up to 50,000 additional HGV tests to take place each year.
As the fuel crisis has taken hold, the government has announced it will roll out more training for HGV drivers, as well as changes to visa rules and that it will try to encourage former HGV drivers back to the industry.
What could this mean for me?
For private hire drivers considering HGV work, there is the promise of more jobs and higher pay.
Companies like Waitrose, Aldi, Morrisons, and logistics company Gist are among those offering HGV driver jobs with salaries of up to £50,000 and over. Wincanton, which works with brands such as Argos, Heineken, and Unilever, has vacancies for about 600 drivers, or 12% of its workforce.
But it’s not just HGV jobs on offer. And the difficulties of lorry driving remain the same – long, inflexible shifts without the social aspect that comes with private hire or delivery work.
Delivery drivers are still in demand, with the shift to online shopping lasting beyond the pandemic.
And there are also lots of people looking for rides too. With more of us out and about, and the queues at the pumps impacting travel for work, leisure or even the school run, there’s more rider demand, meaning surge fares are more likely. All this means more opportunities to earn.
In the short term, it’s worth keeping an eye on the driver forums like Uber People, where fellow drivers are letting people know as and when garages are restocked in their area. Websites such as Petrol Prices are great for comparing fuel prices, and MoneySavingExpert has some handy tips on making your car more efficient and helping your petrol or diesel to go further.