HGV drivers working in UK haulage fell by 49,000 in the last three months of 2021 but the number is stabilising, according to analysis by Logistics UK.

The business group said that with numbers of driving tests now increasing as a result of greater capacity provided by the DVLA, progress was being made to reduce the shortfall.

Elizabeth de Jong, Logistics UK policy director, 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 long waiting list to take a vocational HGV test in Great Britain has been a key contributor to the driver shortage crisis; the data in the report revealed today shows that the DVLA is making progress in catching up on the testing backlog which grew out of the restrictions under the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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The group said 27,144 HGV vocational tests were undertaken in Q4 2021, a 53.5% increase compared with Q4 2019.

De Jong added: “The number of van drivers in the workforce is soaring, with a net increase of 17,000 of these workers in Q4 2021, owing possibly to new job opportunities arising in this market, with demand for online shopping increasing throughout the pandemic.”

Answering a parliamentary question about driving licences this week, transport minister Trudy Harrison said the average time for issuing them in the last three months was 29 days: “However, the DVLA has focused extra resources on processing vocational driving licence applications to support the government’s response to the driver shortage,” she added.

“Since November 2021, routine vocational applications have been processed within normal turnaround times of five working days.

“As with ordinary driving licences, applications where a medical condition must be investigated can take longer.”