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Summer food shortages looming unless HGV driver shortfall addressed

This is the clear warning that was recently issued to Boris Johnson on 23 June 2021. As a result, the Government is now in emergency talks with logistics groups and food suppliers to discuss proposals to address the chronic HGV driver shortage, which is threatening to collapse food supply chains in just a matter of weeks.

In the letter addressed personally to the Prime Minister, industry leaders warned that the dire shortage of HGV drivers has now reached “crisis point” for the food and logistics sector in the UK. With a busy summer approaching, and many drivers finally taking leave entitlement, they warned that the situation will only get worse. Ultimately, failure to redress the balance would result in a summer of food shortages, and potentially to the empty shelves and panic buying that we saw in the spring of 2020. 

The letter was signed by Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association, along with co-signatories from road hauliers including Eddie Stobart, Abbey Logistics Group, XPO Logistics and Wincanton, as well as food industry groups including the Food and Drink Federation, the British Meat Producers Association, the British Beer and Pub Association and the British Frozen Food Federation. 

Why is there a driver shortage?

The haulage industry has long battled a shortage of drivers. However, while numbers typically hovered around a shortfall of 60,000 drivers prior to the pandemic, the dual impact of Brexit and Covid has raised this number to a staggering 100,000, according to the industry experts. Here are the reasons outlined:

  • Brexit – uncertainty over the rights to live and work in the country has deterred many EU drivers from seeking employment in the UK.
  • Covid – not only did Covid restrictions deter many drivers who returned home during lockdown from returning, but it also had a significant impact on our ability to train new drivers. Indeed, during a typical year, of the 72,000 drivers training to become HGV drivers, 40,000 drivers would succeed. However, the loss of test slots last year meant that only 15,000 drivers were able to qualify.
  • Retirement – given that the average age of an HGV driver is 55, the industry has long battled the fact that more drivers are retiring than are replacing them. During the pandemic, more drivers have taken early retirement or moved to less demanding employment.

In support of these claims, the trade body Logistics UK reported that nearly a third of their members are struggling to find drivers. 

Although supermarkets were not included as signatories on the letter, it stated that “supermarkets are already reporting that they are not receiving their expected food stocks and, as a result, there is incredible wastage”. This is borne out by reports from Tesco, who announced that a severe driver shortage is resulting in 48 tonnes of food going to waste every week. 

How will this affect the general public?

But what does this mean for the general public, at a time when we’re supposed to be coming out of the pandemic? Unfortunately, according to the letter, it means that we could see food shortages, with gaps on shelves appearing as deliveries fail to keep pace with demand. The opening up of the hospitality sector and major events, seen as the true return to normality, will actually make the supply chain issues even worse, placing extra burden on distribution logistics. So we could also see restaurants and pubs hit by supply disruption.

Plans to tackle the shortfall

Several proposals are being tabled to address the shortfall, and while these include potentially relaxing the limits on driver hours and revising visa requirements for European drivers, there’s no doubt the Government will focus on increasing the domestic workforce. This means easier access to training and testing, as well job promotion and other initiatives to attract people to the profession. 

In summary… now’s the time to get that HGV qualification

If you’ve been thinking about training to be an HGV driver, then there’s never been a better time to do it. You’ll not only be investing in training that will guarantee employment, but you’ll also be supporting the country in a time of need. All you’ll need is a reliable, responsible attitude, to be at least 18 years of age and hold a full car driving licence. There are many types of driving you can do – from ambulance driving with a Category C1 licence to operating articulated lorries with a Category C + E licence. Where are how you work can be dictated by you, in a job that has good job security and will guarantee a good income. In fact, experienced artic drivers can earn up to £40,000 per year, so the investment in HGV training is definitely worth it. 


Get in touch today to discuss your options. Here at The LGV Training Company, we can guide you through the training process, from applying for your provisional licence all the way through to finding your first job. 


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