In the last few years we have seen a substantial decrease in the number of qualified HGV drivers, which is affecting not only the haulage industry but the UK economy as a whole.
The UK currently needs an additional 60,000 HGV drivers, with around fifty drivers leaving the profession on a daily basis. By the end of the year there are expected to be around 70,000 vacancies. With over 1.6 billion tonnes of goods transported by road in the UK, this is a crisis that needs to be abated.
The life of a trucker is a hard one; it includes long hours, long distance tramping jobs, time away from the family and feelings of isolation. Due to the increasing level of legislative controls, drivers are also not allowed the freedom or flexibility that they once were.
Applying for a HGV license can also be difficult. The official qualification course can cost in excess of £3,000, with no government assistance and very few companies offering to foot the bill.
In addition, work isn’t always guaranteed making trucking an uncertain profession. Many employers are unwilling to offer work to drivers without experience, forcing drivers into a catch-22 situation where they cannot get driving work to gain that experience.
The reality is that many believe being a HGV driver is a dying profession with only 1% of drivers being under the age of 25. The average age of a trucker is 53 years old and the over 50s represent 47% of all drivers.
If something isn't done to attract more drivers to the industry, then the driver shortage will have a huge impact on the delivery of goods within the UK and exporting to Europe, making freight deliveries difficult to organise and prices likely to rise.
With Brexit on the horizon (and deals regarding international driving permits an uncertainty) the situation is expected to worsen significantly, especially as restrictions are applied to international workers coming to work in the UK. There are approximately 60,000 Eastern European HGV drivers working for British companies.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel however. The Road Haulage Association has mounted a 5-point campaign to tackle the problem; along with an annual weekly awareness campaign called RHA National Lorry Week, which celebrated its fourth year in September.
The 5-point scheme includes:
Officials are appealing to both the government and employers to increase the amount of funding for newcomers in a hope to attract a new age of qualified lorry drivers.