Over the last few months there was a shortage of lorry drivers in the UK and Supermarkets and other big retailers were competing to recruit lorry drivers, offering pay rises and “golden hello” payments. This is in turn made it more and more difficult for haulier firms and suppliers to hold onto their drivers. Industry experts have said most of these pressures were being felt by businesses, rather than the consumers and the issue was more about getting the items to the shelves opposed to a shortage in product.
The lorry industry has blamed the shortfall on the post-Brexit exodus of European drivers and a lack of driver training during the coronavirus crisis.
However, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted that leaving the EU did not play a part in the shortage issue, claiming that it has actually helped “provide a solution” to the problem. He continued “Not only [was] there very large and even larger shortages in other EU countries like Poland and Germany, which clearly can’t be because of Brexit… actually because of Brexit I have been able to change the law and alter the way our driving tests operate in a way that I could not have done if we were still part of the EU.”
A spokesman for Logistics UK, a representative of hauliers, described the driver shortage as “a very serious issue that needs urgent Government and industry action to resolve”.
It seems that Covid is arguably part of the problem. Travel became restricted last year, which resulted in large parts of the economy shutting down and several European drivers returning home. Following this mass exit haulage companies explain that very few drivers have made their way back.
The pandemic also caused a backlog in HGV driver tests, which affected the number of drivers that were able to start. Additionally, the industry reportedly disclosed in June that there were 25,000 fewer candidates passing their HGV test in 2020 than in 2019. Fewer people passing the HGV tests resulted in a smaller driver pool.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) survey of its members estimates there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK. This shortfall led to supermarket shelves and restaurants and pubs being depleted of supplies ranging from KFC menu items to bottled bear. Though these issues are ‘first -word’ issues, they break in consistent convenience caused quite a stir and disruption to public life.
So far, we understand that a number of government led initiatives were put forward to address the issue.
The HGV driver shortage has been a problem prior to Brexit and the pandemic. Furthermore, this problem isn’t only affecting the UK however multiple factors have transformed the problem from a long-term challenge to an issue requiring immediate attention. The need to address this problem has never been higher and as we see with the governments’ attempt at a multi-pronged approach the fix requires action on several fronts