Number of HGV drivers in UK is critically low

The past 12-18 months have seen significant changes to how the UK, and the world, operates. The COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit transition period ending has led to significant changes to how Britain shops and how goods can be transferred across the country.

UK logistics has faced one of the largest disasters. On top of the port congestions in Kent in December and January, they’ve not faced the prospect of a skill gap that is leaving the industry on its knees. According to one report, there is currently a shortage of 76,000 HGV drivers as a result of the departure of EU nationals, who made up a significant proportion of this workforce.

According to Logistics UK’s 2020 Skills and Employment Report, <a href=””>80,000 EU nationals</a> have left the UK’s logistics industry. This is a significant proportion of the 2.58 million people who are employed within the sector, but the percentage of EU nationals within the industry has fallen drastically. In 2019, they represented 13.5% of the industry. By mid-2021, they represented only 10.4% of the industry.

While the number of people leaving the logistics industry was lower than those joining, the 85,000 UK workers entering the industry were not joining to fill in HGV roles. Logistics businesses have had to think long and hard about how to transport goods around the country as a result.

The fallout

The major problem with the shortage is that it is causing delays to shipments and food supplies across the country. Tesco executives have been speaking to ministers and have written a letter to the Prime Minister talking about the problems that they are facing. According to their estimates, the UK is going to face a summer of discontent as food stocks plummet due to the lack of HGV drivers available to get the food from one location to another. This warning was also echoed by food pickers within the farming industry.

Industry chiefs would like to see drivers welcomed back into the UK on special visas to get food stocks moving again, but at the moment, the UK logistics industry is wasting 48 tonnes of food a week.

The worst affected food items were those with a short shelf life, such as vegetables, fruit and meat. A farmer in Peterborough has been quoted as saying that should the lack of HGV drivers carry on much longer, then there could be shortages of strawberries at Wimbledon.

Once a week

Some farmers have complained that due to the lack of drivers available, food items are not being collected on a regular enough basis. According to them, some products that have a shelf life of just five days are being collected just once every seven days, leading to food rotting in fields without being collected.

Possible measures

Several measures could be considered to fix this problem. According to Logistics UK, funding could be given by the government for interest-free loans or grants to train more people as HGV drivers. There should also be more done to build an infrastructure of facilities to make the career more attractive to those looking at career options.

HGV driving tests were also halted in the UK during the pandemic, so now, more than ever, more HGV tests need to be taken and more people need to be introduced into the industry so that food supplies can get moving again.

New storm clouds for industry

As the economy has opened up, there has been a surge in the demand for the leisure industry. This has meant that there is further demand on the country’s already-stretched HGV drivers. During what should be a good time for the industry, they’re facing more pressures that can put food levels across the country at risk.

This has led to some drivers working longer hours with less sleep, reducing their ability to concentrate. This can lead to more accidents, which can result in higher premiums for business owners.

The hard push

Other problems are hitting HGV business owners. Smaller regional outfits are beginning to pay their drivers more, with some offering 20% more than national rivals. This increases the number of drivers available for local runs, but it doesn’t have an impact on the shortage of drivers who are willing to travel across the country or further afield.

To help push productivity and get more products on the road and into stores, some suppliers have also taken to reducing unloading and loading times to just 15 minutes. This has its own challenges, as some products could be damaged in the loading process.

If more drivers are not found soon, the UK could find itself in a food shortage.

Insurance premiums could also be pushed up for HGV and courier companies. If drivers are pushed to drive more without breaks, more accidents will happen, which will increase premiums. Firms may also need to take out a policy to protect against claims made against them for not collecting goods and to protect them against suppliers claiming loss of earnings against hauliers. Whether this happens or not remains to be seen.


The UK is entering a critical point within the logistics arena. There are some 80,000 HGV vacancies across the country and the lack of drivers is pushing several industries and niches into severe problems. Food is being left to spoil and customers aren’t getting access to specific products that they would like.

As the UK economy starts to open up again, the demand for HGV drivers and the goods they deliver is only going to grow. The UK has to spend more time recruiting more drivers, whether they’re UK nationals or Europeans who left their positions just a few months ago.

If you want to know how you can protect your courier business from unforeseen circumstances, call us today.