The industry is sailing headlong into a “perfect storm” of conditions that will push the current shortage of HGV drivers to crisis levels, according to recruiter Driver Require.

It said the culmination of Brexit, a drop in the exchange rate and impending IR35 legislation, which aims to close a limited company loophole, all stack up to make the UK a less attractive place to work for foreign HGV drivers.

And whereas previously the industry has avoided the driver shortage becoming critical, Driver Require said the toxic conditions created by additional factors threaten to push the situation into uncharted territory.

It said the implementation of IR35 in the private sector in April could trigger an exodus of professional foreign drivers to Germany and Benelux countries for better pay and conditions.

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Driver Require said a short-term crisis could be avoided by hauliers accepting increased agency charge rates, but this wouldn't address longstanding recruitment problems.

Driver Require chief executive, Kieran Smith, said: “In the longer term, we appeal to the authorities to drive improvements to HGV driver working conditions both in the haulage companies and on the UK road network.

“Meanwhile, we expect that market forces will maintain higher pay rates for HGV drivers, which in turn should result in greater retention and an easing of the supply shortage.”

Last month, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) wrote to the Chancellor urging him to delay the introduction of IR35 rules, warning it would punish workers and provide an environment for non-compliance to thrive: “We need to get the rules right, deliver on regulation for umbrella companies and have proper enforcement in place before pressing go,” said Neil Carberry, REC chief executive.