It’s Been A Year Since The Driver Shortages, What’s Changed?
It’s been a year since the impact of Covid 19 and Brexit brought havoc to the supply chain and HGV recruitment across the country. Though we at Drivers Direct have been banging the ‘skills shortage’ drum for some time now, it seemed overnight the country turned on and began asking “where have all the drivers gone?”. Regrettably, a year on, we’re still asking the same questions.
We’re hoping to change this at Drivers Direct, and are seeing things that encourage us to feel more positive every day, including being involved in exciting training programmes and exercises that reinforce the benefits of working in the logistics industry.
At points in 2021, the HGV driver shortage became chronic, and goods were left undelivered and shops empty. However, with the number of drivers in employment not falling as significantly more recently, the group Logistics UK has expressed cautious optimism that initiatives introduced by the Government and transport industry in the latter part of 2021 and into 2022 are starting to yield results.
Such initiatives include the increase in funding to allow for more HGV driving tests to be completed, the relaxing of test rules, increased monetary incentives to attract more drivers to the field, and a call for retirees to take the wheel once more. All of which, we wholeheartedly agree are the positive changes our industry needs.
The industry, in cooperation with the Government, worked hard to address the key issues which have affected the recruitment of HGV drivers in the past as shortages really started to make headlines last August.
The reduction in numbers of HGV drivers in employment slowed in the first quarter of 2022, compared with the second half of 2021, which illustrates how the actions we’ve all taken are beginning to address the loss of skilled workers.
Figures revealed by Logistics UK indicate that while the number of HGV drivers in employment is estimated to have fallen by 30,300 in the first quarter of 2022, this is less of a reduction than in Q3 and Q4 2021 which saw falls of 44,000 and 49,000 respectively.
Meanwhile, improved throughputs at DVSA testing facilities have shown that 26,388 practical HGV tests were conducted in Q1 2022, an increase of 43% compared with the same period in 2019. March 2022 saw a record 10,481 tests undertaken, with a 60% pass rate.
HGV driver wages have also increased, helping to retain existing staff and attract new drivers, with advertised salaries for those qualified to drive the heaviest vehicles increasing by an average of 25% in Q1 2022 compared with a year ago.
Such a large increase in the number of HGV tests being undertaken is testament to the work being done by DVSA to address its testing backlog, alongside the industry’s commitment to encourage new recruits to join the industry. Simultaneously, the very low number of HGV drivers claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell 70% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2022, indicating that there are hardly any surplus HGV drivers available for work.
That’s a lot of numbers to digest, but to break it down, the stats tell us that there are more drivers joining the industry, and just as important – more staying put!
Attracting and retaining new recruits and existing HGV drivers in the sector remains a critical priority for the logistics industry to secure a skills pipeline for years to come.
It’s vitally important that these initiatives continue to maintain recruitment levels and ensure that a sustained future flow of skilled drivers can be available to support the supply chain as the economy recovers after the impact of the pandemic.
What we believe at Drivers Direct, is that the industry needs a renewed focus on the improvement of facilities for drivers across the strategic roads network, to provide the services and support which key workers deserve during their business hours.
To this effect, the government recently invested £20 million in the development of HGV facilities – with a focus on facilities for women in the hopes of more women drivers in the future! Naturally, this is a very welcome change for us all, and particularly the female members of our team.