“Just a bit of fun, just a bit of fun …,” as Peter Snow used to say on Election Night Specials on the BBC, but seriously the UK’s HGV driver shortage …


“Whether we like it or not, our future prosperity is dependent on our ability to attract foreign-born workers to substitute for the native-born workers who were never born.”

Robert Wright, Professor of Economics at Strathclyde University

Demographic ‘time bomb a huge threat to the economy

We are short of at least 90,000 HGV drivers in the United Kingdom.

Logistics UK says it can take nine months for new drivers to qualify.

80% of those who took the Ministry of Defence’s LGV course in recent times, who passed it and then gained driving work, left the industry in the short term.

Using the MoD course as a guide, we would need to get 450,000 people to take HGV lessons, complete them satisfactorily, pass the appropriate examination and enter driving employment to get 90,000 drivers in the medium to long term.

Back in the day, in Jobcentres we used to say you needed to refer four people to a course to get two to turn up. Only one of the two would be suitable to start the course.

Assuming none of those starting our hypothetical course failed, we’d need to refer 1,800,000 for 900,000 to turn up and for 450,000 to get through the sift to start learning how to drive an HGV.

And all of that 450,000 would have to both complete the course and enter employment as HGV drivers.

The average HGV course costs £2,000.00 so the total cost of 450,000 courses might amount to £900,000,000.00.

And of course, one would need a small army of driving instructors to deliver that number of courses and another sizeable force of examiners to pass out those completing them.

I gather some instructors have quit their jobs to go back on the road, placing more work on to those instructors who have not and raising, probably unfairly, a question mark over their suitability as instructors.

And all that, before we consider the impact of the United Kingdom’s demographic time bomb on the industry.

Road hauliers have cited drivers retiring from the industry as being as big a problem for staff retention as the UK leaving the European Union.

In my Jobcentre days, one quite often had chaps saying that driving work was a doddle.

“Go on, gissa place on an HGV driving course. I can do that, I drove to and from work. I take my missus to the shops in the car. I mean what do you need to be a truck driver?”

“Well …”

Responses to this post from Twitter:

“Lift on Lift off… unaccompanied trailer loaded on ferry one end and picked up the other. as opposed to same driver accompanied RoRo (Roll on Roll off) both ends.”

“Driving a lorry is not about “employment”; the most successful lorry drivers own their own lorries. Ownership is a huge commitment based on years of experience, and establishing networks of customers and trading patterns. Only a fool would enter the market blind.”

“but surely (wink) all delivery points are just off motorway junctions & have huge yards where you’ve just got to go back straight whilst the yardman guides you?”

“Newbies are taught to pass a test , blind siding an artic into a crappy little gate trying not to take out all the badly parked cars , isn’t on the curriculum”

“Nah bruv, as a hgv driver of 30 years I can comfortably say your wrong. Once a new start passes their test the learning begins. If they last 2 years then they’re becoming competent. 30 years in & everydays different, everyday is a school day.”

“On top of exceptional driving skills, you need to be a skilled machine operator, you need to be able to plan ahead, to keep a cool head in sharp crisis situations, to have excellent reactions, to have a good head for figures and a lonely independence must be borne. Rare skills.”

“And how many Army drivers could reverse a 40ft artic through a customer car park into a loading dock without a banksman and not hit anything? Not knocking the Army, it’s just not what they do.”

“I couldn’t agree more! Especially the part that as an army driver you’re not trained to go reverse in the loading bays. I’ve had off road courses,tanker courses with 2/3 load(most tricky one) but learned reverse driving on my civil job,having the benefit of experience already.”

The government are planning to introduce longer lorries next year to solve the driver shortage issues Via @Telegraph:

“Yeah hi, is that ISO? Yeah, we’d like to change the worldwide industrial standard for containerised shipping units. Why? Well we want bigger lorries. Why? Well because we haven’t got enough. Why? Well because nobody will drive them. Why? Well because of Brexit. Hello? Hello??”

“Don’t worry Michael Shapps is going to build longer lorries”

“good for loads of feathers…and not so good for getting into loading/unloading yards…esp down Bradford back streets”

“I’m self employed and it’s a pita. Taxes, NI, bookkeeping. It’s a second job that not everyone can do. Just employ and pay people if you want their labour.”

“This is my “you fucking not serious drop” , luckily it wasn’t Southend Pier, Gravesend”

What goes into an average shift driving a lorry?

Tom the lorryist explains herein.

Matters Arising:

A particular Tweet …

“Makes a huge difference. Ditto land bridge to Ireland. I am actually shipping stuff manufactured in Britain to Ireland via our distribution centre in Netherlands. Customers happily pay double shipping rates. You guys are short of both drivers AND trucks. The cabotage.”

The shortage of drivers based in the UK has been exacerbated by the end of cabotage by EU based drivers delivering a load into the UK then making a number of deliveries within the UK before going back home. And UK based drivers no longer enjoy cabotage privileges in the EU.

For example, a Polish driver delivered a load from Warsaw to Birmingham, picked up a load here and took it to Norwich and then took a load from there to Dagenham before leaving the UK. We have been reliant on those sort of movements which is another cause of our current problems.

You may reasonably ask why the Polish driver is not taking back a single load to mainland Europe. Well, we import more goods from there than we export.

And if you are not hauling, you are invariably not earning so the prospect of cabotage within the UK made bringing a load into the UK, financially worthwhile.

Our Polish driver needs to know he has a load to take straight back or else it may not be viable for him to bring a load into the UK at all.

As we all know, drivers need insurance.

It is routinely difficult to get competitively priced insurance for newly fledged HGV drivers. If you go straight from only having driven a car to driving for a living you are deemed to be high risk, because you have no record of driving even a delivery van.

And, imagine an insurer considering the risks associated with a business which normally takes on a few drivers at any one time when it says it is looking at a larger number, some of whom have never driven routinely for work.

I gather there a lot of HGV licence holders out there in the UK not using them. An HGV licence expires after five years then you have to renew it. Having been trained to drive an HGV does not mean you are job ready.

Grant Shapps has told prospective employers they may get an ex offender off the Road to Logistics scheme.

Classic Shapps, potentially compromising the initiative and that particular group’s chances of securing employment in an industry wherein high levels of honesty are required and insurance premiums are high.

According to Grant Shapps, employers will be falling over themselves to employ ex offenders; ex regulars (the answer to every recruitment problem requiring tough men?) and the long term unemployed who have recently qualified to drive a basic HGV.

It is not like we have not tried that one at least once before with varying results.


On HGV driver shortages, both sides are missing the point about cabotage

Lorry shortage may soon spread to bus industry as drivers quit to take on HGVs

Gritter driver shortage could lead to icy roads this winter

Twitter threads

Brexit has removed cabotage, which made UK haulage more efficient

Brexiteers have been lying, again, about Covid impacting negatively on HGV training

To become a “professional HGV driver” you first need

6 thoughts on ““Just a bit of fun, just a bit of fun …,” as Peter Snow used to say on Election Night Specials on the BBC, but seriously the UK’s HGV driver shortage …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s