Current efforts to resolve the driver shortage will not be enough to prevent the looming skills crisis, the Transport Committee has said.

In its report released today, the select committee said that “years of under investment” by the road transport industry had lead to a shortage of around 45,000 drivers.

A further 40,000 are expected to leave the industry by 2017 according to the report, and the committee said both the industry and the government need to do more to close the gap.

According to the Skills and Workforce Planning in the Road Haulage Sector report, current measures “are not sufficiently targeted or wide-reaching to deliver drivers fast enough to address the shortage”.

The report describes the industry’s workforce as a “demographic time bomb”, with too many male, white drivers over the age of 45 who are likely to retire in the coming years and widen the skills gap further.

Other issues, such as poor working conditions, high training costs and extensive industry regulation are listed as contributors to the shortage.

No shortage of licence holders

The working conditions are of particular importance, the report suggested, as the committee found that it is a shortage of people willing to work in the industry, rather than qualified drivers, at the heart of the issue.

Out of every three holders of HGV licence holders in the UK, said the report, two choose to not work in the road haulage sector.

The report also highlighted the extensive use of agency and non-UK drivers to meet demand as a key danger to the industry.

The upcoming Brexit, it said, could make the affects of the shortage “rapidly more acute” if the UK becomes a less appealing place for non-UK residents to work.

The other danger the committee lists is that the dependency on agency drivers means many companies sacrifice money for staff training, which could in future lead to a shortage of other roles, such as transport managers.

While the committee made recommendations for the government in the report, the brunt of the suggested actions falls on the road industry itself.

Not government's responsibility to solve skills crisis

“Industry seems to expect the government to step in and resolve the problems caused by years of under-investment,” the report said.

Suggested actions for the industry from the committee include doing more to raise the profile of the industry, find ways of funding licence acquisition, and do more to widen its recruitment pool to include more women and ethnic minorities.

The report said that the government’s key priority should be to ensure that in addressing the driver shortage, the high standard of required training is maintained.

It also said the government should assess whether the current work it does to support recruitment in the sector is “good value for money”, and that it should work with industry bodies such as the RHA and FTA to improve the treatment of drivers.

However the report added that while recruitment is important at this point in time, the retention of staff should also be a priority in order to move employees up the ladder into roles such as transport manager.


The Transport Committee recommended the government should consider making any further skills funding conditional on the industry making an effort to improve employee retention.

“To do otherwise,” reads the report, “will be to continue to try and top up a leaking bucket”.