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UK lorry driver numbers plunge 53,000 in four years, official figures show

·2 min read
Covid and Brexit have prompted EU drivers to stop working in the UK (PA)
Covid and Brexit have prompted EU drivers to stop working in the UK (PA)

The number of lorry drivers in Britain has plunged by 53,000 in four years, according to official figures.

The data shows a 30 per cent fall in EU drivers since 2017, with the number falling by 12,000. However, the majority of the overall drop was due to a 42,000 reduction in UK driver numbers over the same period.

A shortage of drivers have caused major problems for companies including supermarkets, which have struggled to maintain normal stock levels. Delays to petrol deliveries also sparked a crisis on forecourts as drivers rushed to fill up their tanks.

Businesses across the economy are dealing with rising costs to move goods which are expected to be passed on to consumers.

Years of stagnant pay and worsening conditions have been blamed for a long-term driver shortage that has gathered pace over the past twelve months, the latest figures show.

Covid and Brexit have prompted EU drivers to stop working in the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated the number of HGV drivers working in the UK fell 17 per cent to 268,000 in the year to June, down from a peak of 321,000 in 2016-17. The haulage industry trade body estimated the UK requires an additional 100,000 lorry drivers.

The ONS report underlines the issues facing the crisis-stricken haulage industry, with an ageing workforce, a shortage of EU nationals and mounting costs and red tape in the wake of Brexit.

The ONS said there were nearly a third fewer (29 per cent) lorry drivers working in the UK aged between 46 and 54 than in the year to June 2017, with a 34,000 drop.

Nearly a third of all hauliers in the UK were aged 56 or over in 2020-21, with just under 20 per cent aged between 19 and 35.

This has led to record numbers of transport and storage vacancies in the UK – at 52,000 in the three months to the end of September, 49 per cent up on the January to March 2020 pre-pandemic level, and with HGV drivers making up around 10 per cent of that sector.

The lorry driver shortage is taking its toll across most sectors in the UK, increasingly leaving supermarket shelves bare and recently sparking a crisis on Britain’s petrol forecourts, forcing the army to step in to help with fuel deliveries.

The ONS said a recent survey showed nearly a third (29 per cent) of adults in the UK said they struggled to buy certain groceries, medication or other essentials.

It said the lorry driver shortage was likely to be one of the factors impacting the availability of items.

Additional reporting by PA

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