HGV drivers challenge the term ‘Driver Shortage’

Social listening conducted by SNAP, haulage's digital marketplace, discovered truck drivers challenged the term 'driver shortage' - labelling it as scaremongering. Instead, they stated a lack of clean facilities and fair wages were to blame for experienced drivers leaving the industry and, in conjunction, deterring new applicants. On social media, SNAP prompted drivers to voice their opinions regarding the Department for Transport's (DfT) consultation on measures to relieve the driver shortage in the transport industry.

The DfT seeks proposals to allow a person to undertake their theory and off-road manoeuvre tests before being granted a provisional HGV driver entitlement. Since Covid-19 and Brexit, the industry has seen a drop in HGV drivers. The pandemic delayed 30,000 tests for new drivers, and Brexit hit fleet companies hard - with many European truck drivers leaving the UK.

A 2023 report from SNAP suggests the sector could reach a 'tipping point' in the next 10-15 years. With the industry shifting rapidly, online orders are one of the fastest-growing demands. Combined with an ageing workforce, industry needs will outgrow the shortage of qualified drivers.

Despite this, 72.5% of drivers disagreed with the statement regarding the driver shortage, explaining there isn't one. Of the 72.5% - 28% suggested low pay steered experienced drivers away and did not provide enough incentive for new applicants. There have been misconceptions regarding HGV wages in the UK - with the opinion that truck drivers earn more than the average worker.

SNAP received many comments from drivers contradicting this: "I have an HGV license but no desire to use it. I currently earn more per hour as a driving instructor.

It's not a driver shortage at all." "Pay the drivers more money and give them better facilities."

20% of drivers suggested facilities were to blame for pushing qualified drivers away. Facilities at truck stops have come under scrutiny by many, citing they are not worth the charges drivers face to park overnight.

In March 2024, the DfT announced a further GBP16.5 million to improve lorry park facilities - after an GBP8 million investment at the end of 2023 for 39 sites across the UK. Equally, 20% of drivers explained they had a licence but couldn't find work. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there are more than 183,000 HGV-driving jobs in the UK.

Despite this, each region has different job opportunities, resulting in an unequal demand across the UK. Multiple drivers shared their experiences struggling to pick up work: "I've held a class one for seven months and can't get a job.

I'd love to know where the shortage is." "What shortage? There's not much work up for grabs."

10% who neither agreed nor disagreed with the term 'driver shortage' stated the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) had played a critical role in the reduced number of HGV drivers. Introduced in 2009, the CPC aims to improve road safety, professionalism, and environmental awareness - it also ensures drivers are up-to-date with all health, safety, and legal requirements. Results from a consultation regarding a policy review to the CPC found that 47% of HGV drivers said it was ineffective or very ineffective.

From SNAP's social media, one driver commented: "Get rid of the CPC, and I'll pick up shifts. I am not paying to do 35 hours, learning to do what I've previously spent years doing every day."

The Government has outlined a series of changes to the CPC to increase flexibility when renewing and regaining the qualification. Among changes to course length, the Government will develop more core course content alongside the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. Matthew Bellamy, Managing Director at SNAP, comments: "We've received invaluable feedback from drivers regarding their thoughts on the driver shortage.

From the responses, it's clear that the industry must change in multiple areas to retain and attract more HGV drivers.

With 185,000+ drivers using our network, we will continue to raise awareness regarding the challenges drivers face within an industry that is forever evolving."