Welcome to our latest blog post, where we will be discussing the impact of the HGV driver shortage on road freight. Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers play a crucial role in the road freight industry, ensuring goods are transported efficiently and safely. However, a significant driver shortage has emerged in recent years, posing challenges to the industry and affecting supply chains.

This post will delve into six key aspects of the HGV driver shortage and its implications for road freight and explore potential solutions to address this issue.

Causes of the HGV Driver Shortage

The shortage of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers in the UK is a complex issue exacerbated by recent events such as Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is important to note that this shortage has long-standing roots in several key factors.

Ageing Workforce

One of the main contributors to the HGV driver shortage is the ageing workforce. The average age of HGV drivers is high, and retirements are outpacing the influx of recruits. This imbalance is further compounded by health issues that often affect older drivers, leading to a decrease in the available workforce.

Lack of New Recruits

The profession of an HGV driver has limited appeal to younger generations. The high costs of training and licensing, coupled with perceived poor working conditions, have deterred many potential recruits. Furthermore, the industry has struggled with retention, with most HGV drivers leaving the workforce before reaching 45 years old.

According to a report by Brabners, between 2015 and 2019, there were 25,500 newly trained drivers each year, which largely offset the retirement rate of 10,000 per year. However, by 2020, of those under 45 years old who held HGV licences, only 19% were professional drivers, and only 32% retained their licences and qualifications. The rest left the industry altogether.

Regulatory Changes

Regulatory changes, such as the alterations to IR35 tax legislation, have also contributed to the driver shortage. These changes have led to many HGV drivers losing their self-employed status or the tax advantages of that status, causing some to leave the industry.

The Impact of Brexit and COVID-19

While Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic have undoubtedly exacerbated the HGV driver shortage, they are not the root cause. These events have, however, highlighted and intensified the existing issues within the industry. The pandemic led to many drivers leaving their roles, and Brexit resulted in a decrease in EU nationals working as HGV drivers in the UK.

In conclusion, the HGV driver shortage is a multifaceted issue requiring a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach. It is not merely a matter of recruiting more drivers; the industry must also focus on improving working conditions, addressing the high costs of training and licensing, and finding ways to retain drivers in the long term.

Impact on Supply Chains

The Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) driver shortage in the United Kingdom has profoundly impacted supply chains, leading to delays, increased costs, and potential disruptions. This shortage is not new but has been exacerbated in recent years due to strategic and tactical factors.

Delays in Deliveries

The delivery delay is one of the most immediate impacts of the HGV driver shortage.

With a shortfall of approximately 100,000 HGV drivers, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), the driver pool may be a quarter under-strength. This has led to longer lead times for orders, reduced reliability in transportation schedules, and increased pressure on existing drivers. The situation is further complicated by the fact that many businesses require deliveries outside of standard working hours, which may not align with the preferences of the available drivers.

Increased Costs

The shortage of drivers has resulted in increased costs for businesses. Companies have had to offer higher wages to attract and retain drivers, increasing overtime and agency staff expenses. Although these increased costs have not yet been passed on to consumers, there is a possibility of increased product prices in the future.

Addressing the HGV driver shortage requires a multifaceted approach. While immediate measures such as increasing wages and improving working conditions can alleviate some of the pressure, long-term solutions are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the road freight industry.

Effects on Road Safety

The Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) driver shortage in the UK has raised significant concerns about road safety. The implications of this shortage are far-reaching, affecting not only the drivers themselves but also other road users and the wider supply chain.

Driver Fatigue

One of the most immediate effects of the HGV driver shortage is the increased risk of driver fatigue. With fewer drivers available, existing drivers are often required to work longer hours to meet delivery demands. This extended time behind the wheel can lead to exhaustion, reducing drivers’ alertness and reaction times and increasing the risk of accidents.

According to a report by the Transport Committee, antisocial and long hours have contributed to the driver shortfall, with many drivers not prepared to sacrifice their work-life balance. The report also highlights that the driver shortage has turned from a chronic issue into an acute one due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vehicle Maintenance

The HGV driver shortage also has implications for vehicle maintenance. With fewer staff available to carry out essential checks and repairs, there is a risk that vehicle maintenance could be overlooked. This could increase the risk of road accidents and breakdowns due to mechanical failures.

The British Safety Council has warned that poor facilities and low pay in the road haulage sector are forcing people to leave the industry, exacerbating the driver shortage. The council supports the Transport Committee’s recommendation for a two-year deadline for the logistics sector to improve facilities or face penalties.

In conclusion, the HGV driver shortage in the UK is a complex issue with serious implications for road safety. Addressing this shortage requires a multifaceted approach, focusing on recruitment, improving working conditions, and ensuring adequate vehicle maintenance.

Industry Responses to the Shortage

The HGV driver shortage in the UK has been a persistent issue, but recent government and industry initiatives are beginning to show promising results. The road freight industry has proactively implemented strategies to address this shortage, focusing on improved driver training and licensing schemes and enhancing working conditions.

Improved Driver Training and Licensing Schemes

One of the key responses to the HGV driver shortage has been a focus on streamlining training processes and providing financial incentives for new drivers.

The government and industry have collaborated to address the key issues affecting the recruitment of HGV drivers. The number of HGV drivers in employment has not fallen as significantly as in recent quarters, indicating that initiatives such as increased wages for drivers, drivers’ skills boot camps, and improved throughputs of testing by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) are beginning to address the loss of skilled workers.

In addition, the government has invested £34 million to create new HGV Skills Bootcamps to train just over 11,000 more people to become HGV drivers in England. The number of HGV driving tests available has increased by 90% compared to the pre-pandemic levels through measures including overtime and allocating additional employees to testing.

Enhanced Working Conditions

Another significant response to the HGV driver shortage has been an emphasis on enhancing working conditions. This includes better pay and benefits, improved facilities and rest areas, and a greater emphasis on work-life balance.

For instance, HGV driver wages have increased to retain existing staff and attract new drivers, with advertised salaries for those qualified to drive the heaviest vehicles increasing by an average of 25% in Q1 2022 compared with a year ago. Moreover, the government has allocated £20 million to improve roadside facilities for HGV drivers, including improving security, showers, and eating facilities, and exploring increasing parking spaces for lorry drivers.

This investment is part of National Highways’ existing £169 million Users and Communities Fund. These initiatives are crucial in addressing the immediate driver shortage and ensuring a sustained pipeline of skilled drivers to support the supply chain as the economy recovers from the pandemic’s impact.

Government Initiatives

The UK government has proactively addressed the HGV driver shortage, implementing various measures to alleviate the issue. These initiatives are designed to increase the number of HGV drivers, streamline the process of becoming a driver, and encourage former drivers to return to the industry.

Temporary Visa Schemes

One of the government’s responses to the HGV driver shortage has been the introduction of short-term visas for foreign HGV drivers. This measure aims to quickly increase the number of available drivers in the UK.

The government has expedited the processing of these visa applications to ensure a swift response to the shortage. However, this is a temporary solution, and the government is considering potential long-term immigration reforms to address the issue more sustainably.

Funding and Support

Besides policy changes, the government provides financial support for driver training programmes. This funding aims to make HGV driver training more accessible and affordable, attracting more individuals.

The government is also investing in infrastructure to improve road networks, making the job of an HGV driver more efficient and less strenuous. Furthermore, the government collaborates with industry stakeholders to understand their challenges and develop effective solutions. This collaborative approach ensures that the measures implemented are relevant and beneficial to the industry.

The government’s initiatives demonstrate a commitment to addressing the HGV driver shortage and ensuring the continued efficiency of the UK’s road freight industry. The measures taken are comprehensive, targeting various aspects of the issue, from training and recruitment to infrastructure and policy.

For more detailed information on the government’s response to the HGV driver shortage, please refer to the UK government’s official page.

Long-term Solutions and Industry Outlook

The HGV driver shortage in the UK is a complex issue requiring a multifaceted approach. As we look towards the future, it becomes evident that long-term solutions are needed to ensure the sustainability and growth of the road freight industry.

This section will explore the potential of technological innovations and industry collaboration as key strategies to address this pressing issue.

Technological Innovations

Innovation often emerges as the beacon of hope in the face of challenges. The road freight industry is no exception, with technological advancements offering promising solutions to the HGV driver shortage.

Autonomous Vehicles and Platooning Technology

One of the most promising developments in the road freight industry is the advent of autonomous vehicles. These self-driving trucks could alleviate the driver shortage by taking over long-haul routes, allowing human drivers to focus on shorter, more complex routes. Platooning technology, where a lead truck with a human driver controls a convoy of autonomous vehicles, is another innovation that could increase efficiency and reduce the need for drivers.

Enhanced Fleet Management Systems

Technology can also aid in optimising the use of existing resources. Enhanced fleet management systems, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, can improve route planning, vehicle maintenance, and fuel efficiency. These systems can also provide real-time data, enabling companies to make informed decisions and reduce operational costs.

Improved Vehicle Design for Driver Comfort and Safety

The design of HGVs can also play a role in attracting and retaining drivers. Companies can make the profession more appealing by focusing on driver comfort and safety. This could include ergonomic interiors, advanced safety features, and even hybrid or electric engines, such as Siemens’ eHighway system, which reduces energy consumption and local air pollution by supplying trucks with power from an overhead contact line.

Industry Collaboration and Partnerships

Besides technological solutions, the power of collaboration and strategic partnerships cannot be underestimated. By working together, companies within the road freight industry can pool resources, share expertise, and create synergies to help overcome the driver shortage.

Sharing Resources and Expertise Between Road Freight Companies

Collaboration within the industry can also be a part of the solution. Road freight companies can collectively address the driver shortage by sharing resources and expertise. This could involve pooling driver recruitment and training resources or sharing data to improve industry-wide efficiency.

Establishing Strategic Partnerships to Streamline Supply Chains

Strategic partnerships can also streamline supply chains, reducing the demand for HGV drivers. Companies can optimise their operations by working closely with suppliers and customers and reducing the need for long-haul deliveries.

Joint Investment in Driver Training and Recruitment Initiatives

Finally, joint investment in driver training and recruitment initiatives can help attract new industry entrants. By promoting the benefits of a career in road freight and providing comprehensive training opportunities, the industry can ensure a steady supply of skilled drivers for the future.

In summary, while the HGV driver shortage presents significant challenges, it also allows the road freight industry to innovate and evolve. Through technological advancements, industry collaboration, and strategic partnerships, the industry can navigate this issue and build a sustainable future.


The HGV driver shortage is a pressing issue affecting the global road freight industry and supply chains. By understanding its causes, consequences, and potential solutions, we can work together to address this challenge and ensure a sustainable future for road freight.