Why is there a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK?

The United Kingdom does have an issue with HGV-driver recruitment. In 2013, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) revealed that new driver licence acquisitions in 2013 were “25 per cent lower than in 2008”, which is a significant reduction. Those numbers are made worse when you consider that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has revealed that they are short of 60,000 drivers with an ageing workforce in decline.

This is a national problem, since the UK economy relies on shifting goods. But why is the UK lorry trade failing, and what is behind the reduction in new licence acquisitions?

The Answer

Not enough young people are considering lorry driving as a career. The current lorry driver workforce is ageing, with people taking retirement every year. There aren’t enough younger people taking up the job to make up the shortfall. There are several reasons for this, including: the high cost of acquiring a lorry driving licence, and the low pay offered to newer drivers. The latter reason is a big issue; people can work full time in a bar and get paid more than a lorry driver, with better hours and greater flexibility.

Another reason for young people not taking up a career as a lorry driver, is a lack of understanding of the sector. Young people are not educated at school to understand how the logistics sector works. And, when they get older, they have no desire to find out.

The Solution

Many people have offered potential solutions to this problem. The Freight Transport Association held the FTA Skills Summit 2016 recently. The event attracted nearly 500 people and explored the issues surrounding the skills shortage.

One the key takeaways from this event, was that there is a lack of apprenticeships for younger people in the sector. It also became apparent that the sector has not done enough to engage with young people. It was largely agreed that to get younger people to take up a career as a lorry driver, the sector would have to change. This is something we agree with, and that change must begin at an early age, to attract younger people.

Another issue can be defined using the phrase “paid with peanuts”. Today, jobs within low-stress office environments offer good money with a clear career path. Several other types of job can be described as such. Lorry driving is a high-stress job, since there are very strict timeframes and objectives to meet. Therefore, young lorry driver pay must reflect this.