The UK HGV driver workforce has remained stable for the fourth successive quarter but continues to suffer a “chronic” low level shortages and a dearth of younger drivers, a report from Driver Require is warning.

It calls for the industry to ensure pay rates are maintained to counteract the impact of inflation, ensure good working conditions to retain drivers and take measures to attract younger drivers.

The report, dubbed HGV Driver Crisis: Where are we now? showcases the agency’s latest research into the HGV driver shortage.

Using the latest ONS Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2023, the report estimates of the number of UK HGV delivery drivers to be around 304,000 and notes that this is close to the previous quarter, Q4 2022, when it was 307,000.

Similarly, the age profile has also remained stable, with the vast majority of around 180,000 HGV drivers still over 45 years old, with the data showing signs that older drivers that quit during the pandemic have returned, lured by 2022's wage hikes.

The number of EU nationality drivers, which fell to around 10,000 immediately following Brexit, has also returned close to pre-pandemic numbers, currently totalling around 40,000, the research found.

The report notes: “What’s interesting is that the number of EU nationality drivers peaked at 50,000 in December 2022 in line with the peak Christmas period, demonstrating that the European contingent is still providing elasticity of supply to match significant variances in demand.”

On a positive note, the report highlights a recovery in the number of drivers under 30 years old, which fell significantly during the pandemic. Although this still remains much lower than the other age ranges at around 30,000, the report sees the increased numbers as an encouraging sign.

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However the sector cannot rest on its laurels, the report warns, pointing out that it is continuing to fail to attract enough young drivers to replace those leaving the workforce.

“Consequently, without interventions to address this issue, we will see a depletion of the workforce that will eventually result in another shortage crisis, although this could be a decade away,” it adds.

The current economic headwinds facing the industry could also erode the progress made on pay and conditions in 2021, the report warns, although it finds hope inincreased moves by the government to support and encourage young people into the sector.

The report concludes: “Our primary concern is that the sector is still struggling to attract enough young blood to replace the number retiring and leaving the workforce. This churn will increase as inflation erodes the salary increases achieved in 2021 until eventually another shortage crisis will occur.

“The sector can avoid this by maintaining driver pay rates, improving working conditions and attracting more younger drivers into the workforce.

“This will be hard to achieve in the face of hostile economic forces, such as powerful consolidated buyers, rising fuel costs coupled with rising core inflation, and the need to invest in zero-carbon technologies and fleet.

“All in all, a bleak outlook, but we are encouraged to see increasing government support for and investment in improving roadside HGV services, and commitment to attracting new blood into the workforce through initiatives such as Generation Logistics.”