The number of HGV drivers in the UK now exceeds pre-pandemic levels, suggesting that the industry’s recruitment crisis is coming to an end.

Official labour force statistics for April to June 2022 showed that HGV delivery drivers have increased to 305,000, from 271,000 in the first three months of the year.

According to agency Driver Require, this now exceeds the workforce prior to the Covid-19 pandemic of 301,000.

Following analysis of the figures, Kieran Smith, Driver Require chief executive, said: “This implies that the UK HGV driver demand and supply is at approximately the same level as it was pre-pandemic, which leads us to believe that we are approaching the end of the Covid HGV driver shortage crisis and returning to the chronic low-level shortage we experienced for decades.”

Smith cautioned: “If this is the case, we can anticipate seasonal short-term driver shortages, becoming severe during the summer holiday months and later in the year with the Black Friday effect and the lead-up to Christmas.”

Latest figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed there were 74% more lorry tests – 11,197 - carried out in Q1 2022 compared to before the pandemic.

The DfT said since the government put in place a number of interventions to address the problem, the sector had started to recover and the perception of the industry was changing.

Loveday Ryder, DVSA chief exectuive, said: “We recognise the haulage industry keeps the wheels of our economy turning.

“I want to say thank you to all vocational training providers and our vocational driving examiners for supporting the changes.

“It’s their hard work and commitment that has allowed us to offer an additional 11,197 tests and increase the number of drivers joining the industry.”

Driver Require formed a driver shortage think tank in 2021 to report on the evolving employment crisis and in its latest report it said only a relatively small fraction of the growth in driver numbers had come from new HGV test passes.

The majority was due to returning lapsed drivers, attracted back to the job by better pay and conditions.

It added that although the increase was good news, there were still significant numbers leaving the industry, especially from younger age groups.