UK driver shortage 'eases' as testing backlog begins to clear and number of younger recruits rises

Fri 18 Feb 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Numbers of HGV drivers in the UK are “stabilising” as driver tests have increase by more than half, according to the body charged with testing new applicants.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) carried out 27,144 HGV vocational tests in the last quarter of 2021, representing a 53.5% increase on Q4 2019, according to research from Logistics UK.

Although there were still 49,000 fewer HGV drivers in the workforce in Q4 2021 compared with 2019, the figures show the DVSA is catching up on the testing backlog which grew out of the pandemic, reports the Loadstar.

Younger recruits

Office of National Statistics (ONS) data released yesterday also showed a gain in the number of HGV drivers under 45 years of age – up to 37% from 33.6% two years ago.

In the 34-39 age bracket, there are more than 30,000 drivers compared with about 25,000 two years ago.

A further 30,000 drivers entered or re-entered the profession in the third quarter of last year.

Resilient logistics

Elizabeth de Jong, director of policy at Logistics UK, said: “The new ONS data shows that attracting new entrants to the profession, and ensuring sufficient tests are available, are key to the resilience of the logistics sector.”

The figures back an assessment by driver recruitment agency Driver Require that the industry had reached a turning point where the driver shortage crisis was ‘severe’ rather than at ‘crisis’ levels, as previously covered in the IOE&IT’s Daily Update.

Younger drivers required

SHD Logistics reports that with 150,000 drivers approaching retirement age, there is still time for the situation to evolve and that younger drivers are required.

With EU nationals leaving the UK, more needs to be done to attract them back to work in the UK following limited uptake of the temporary visa scheme, SHD Logistics adds. Those who have left the industry altogether must also be tempted back.

Back to work

Broader staff shortages are starting to wane, according to Bloomberg, which reports ONS figures for December showing inactivity fell by 235,000 to 8.63 million, the biggest monthly decline since December 2019 and in line with levels last seen shortly after the start of the pandemic.

Inactivity is a measure of the number of people neither in work not looking for a job.

Economists have estimated that there is a ‘participation gap’ of about one million workers, compared with the number of people who would have been in work had pre-pandemic trends persisted.

This is causing the tightest employment market in living memory. The ratio of vacancies to every 100 employee jobs hit a record high of 4.3 in November 2021 to January 2022, the ONS said.