Driver Shortage Media Brief
8 September 2021
8 September 2021
This brief provides background to the current issues affecting the UK chemical supply chain, the most prominent of which is the shortage of HGV drivers.
Our latest industry survey shows that 96% (62% in our last survey completed June 2021) of members responding currently have issues with road haulage in the UK and 78% have similar issues in Europe.
While chemicals represent a relatively small sector of the distribution industry, they have a disproportionate economic and social significance.
We have voiced our concerns on several occasions that supplies of chemicals to key business sectors, such as water treatment, fuel, and oil additives, – are likely to suffer from delayed or cancelled deliveries resulting in consequences for public health, the environment, and economic growth.
WHY IS THERE A SHORTAGE OF HGV DRIVERS?
The problem results from there being an ever-increasing demand for transport at the same time as the number of drivers are continually falling – primarily due to an aging workforce that is not being replaced as quickly as they retire, drivers who leave the industry to work elsewhere, or return to their home countries as the result of Brexit and Covid-19.
Levels of pay are also a factor, but a poor perception of the profession, lack of facilities, and difficult working conditions have also created issues in retaining existing drivers as well as attracting and recruiting young people and women into the profession.
IT’S NOT JUST A PROBLEM IN THE UK
The logistics industry has been highlighting the chronic shortage of HGV drivers for many years. A recent paper by the research organisation, Transport Intelligence, found that the European road freight industry is short of over 400,000 drivers. Poland alone has a deficiency of over 120,000 drivers with agencies there are offering employment to people from countries such as Bangladesh, India, Philippines, and Vietnam.
Recent research shows that the percentage of drivers under the age of 25 makes up just 5% of the driver workforce in Europe while the level of women drivers is around 2% to 3%. In many countries, the minimum age for professional drivers is 21 or higher – this has been described as a ‘demographic time-bomb that will only get worse without action to reduce minimum driver age’.
Industry organisations in the UK estimate the current shortage of HGV drivers to be between 76,000 and 100,000. The UK’s position has been significantly exacerbated by Brexit. European drivers have returned to their home countries in large numbers and Covid-19 has meant the driver training and testing did not take place for over 12 months.
Current data from the Office National Statistics shows that in March 2019 there were 304,000 HGV drivers in the UK but by March 2021, this had fallen dramatically to 256,000 – a 16% reduction in just two years. This rapid decline was made up of nearly 14,000 EU drivers while the remaining 31,000 were UK based drivers.
For the UK chemical supply chain, where HGV drivers must hold a further ADR qualification, the problem is relatively speaking, more acute.
ABOUT THE CHEMICAL BUSINESS ASSOCIATION
We represent the independent chemical supply chain and our membership includes distributors, traders, warehouse operators, along with logistics and transport companies. The majority of our members, which are SMEs, are the main industry interface with thousands of UK downstream chemical users.
Our member companies have an annual turnover of over 3 billion and employ almost 9000 people distributing, packing, and blending key chemical components and services to virtually every sector of the UK economy and make more than 2.5 million deliveries each year and handle almost 6.75 million tonnes of chemicals every year.
We have taken part in an industry lobbying campaign to bring the current situation to the attention of Government.
In June, we wrote to the Prime Minister pointing out the seriousness of the situation and the potential consequences for the economy, services, health, and the environment. This letter was copied to the Secretaries of State for Business and for the Environment.
The Government’s first response was to relax drivers’ hours to allow them to work longer. We thought that this was an inadequate and inappropriate response which failed to recognise the scale of the problem, and we also opposed this measure on the grounds of safety. Many drivers were already working long hours and expecting them to work more was an unrealistic solution and didn’t tackle the main problem.
In July, we wrote to the Secretaries of State for Business and for Transport informing them that the situation in the chemical supply chain was deteriorating and, again, calling for urgent action.
Later that same month, the Secretaries of State for Transport, Work and Pensions, and the Environment took the unprecedented step of announcing a package of initiatives in an open letter to the logistics sector.
These measures included a fast-track approach to driver examinations with a target of 2,000 successful passes each week, two new apprenticeship schemes with increased funding, as well as spending on new lorry parks and daytime and overnight facilities for drivers.
We have welcomed many of these measures as a clear acknowledgement of the driver shortage issue and the need for urgent action. We particularly welcome the Government’s intention to continue working with us and other stakeholders to find both short and medium-term remedies, as well as long-term solutions to the problem.
Click here to read our letter to the Prime Minister
Click here to read our letter to Secretaries of State for Business and Transport
Click here to read the joint Ministerial open letter to the logistics sector
Click here to read our News Release welcoming the new initiatives
Further information from:
CBA Chief Executive
NOTES TO EDITORS
We represent the independent chemical supply chain and our membership includes distributors,
traders, warehouse operators, along with logistics and transport companies. The majority of our
members, which are SMEs, are the main industry interface with thousands of UK downstream
Our member companies have an annual turnover of over 3 billion and employ almost 9000 people
distributing, packing, and blending key chemical components and services to virtually every sector of
the UK economy and make more than 2.5 million deliveries each year and handle almost 6.75 million
tonnes of chemicals every year.