Unless conditions improve, HGV driver shortage could reach “crisis point”

Published: 09 March 2020

Unless conditions improve, HGV driver shortage could reach “crisis point”
The shortage of drivers within the UK is driving towards a “perfect storm”, as the current gap of 50,000 is expected to grow even further unless certain areas of the industry such as salary and working conditions are improved, this is according to research by recruitment service Driver Require.

The report titled: “Investigating the UK’s LGV driver shortage” states the demand for drivers has only ever continued to increase steadily over the past 10 years. The industry requiring over 370,000 drivers – while there are currently 320,000 actively operating.

While the UK could’ve been overwhelmed by this major gap in drivers beforehand, a wide range of factors such as the recession along with Eastern European immigration contributed in making the 
The UK has so far been able to get around this shortage due to a combination of recession and Eastern European immigration, but Driver Require fears "the situation could rapidly worsen due to impending regulatory changes".

CEO of Driver Require Kieran Smith spoke on the research: “For the first time since 2005, we have increased LGV driver requirements with no continental EU nationals to make up the deficit. Meanwhile, the UK has become a less attractive place to work for foreign LGV drivers due to a 'perfect storm' of conditions: the culmination of Brexit, the associated drop in the exchange rate and the government’s crackdown on limited company operators via the IR35 legislation, which comes into effect in April 2020.”
The IR35 implementation could also lead many drivers from across the globe to find work elsewhere besides the UK, for the opportunity of better pay without tax or tax equivalent.  Many British drivers in the industry are also choosing to leave to pursue other career opportunities. According to Driver Require, the outcome from this could be “a rapid worsening of the LGV driver shortage to crisis point which, in short term, would inflate LGV driver pay to unprecedented levels.”

Driver Require have suggested that operators could accept increased agency driver rates, to discourage others from returning to the rest of Europe for work as they would then choose to operate elsewhere for the sake of finding a job with better pay.

Smith continued: “HMRC is working hard to close the limited company loophole and force payment of taxes. Meanwhile, haulage companies are under extreme margin pressure from their customers and agencies are also under pressure following 10 long years of having their margins squeezed by their haulage customers.”
He concluded: “If IR35 is implemented in April, we can assume that few hauliers will want to accept an increase in agency charges, so we can foresee agency LGV driver net pay falling and an exodus of thousands of foreign drivers to continental Europe.”
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