The UK is facing a logistics crisis. A shortage in truck drivers has caused havoc to supply chains, most recently affecting the supply of McDonald’s milkshakes.
The scale of the problem is huge and isn’t just confined to the UK. Across the EU, there is a shortfall of approximately 400,000 drivers, with an estimated deficit of 76,000 drivers in the UK.
This shortage inevitably leads to empty shelves - like at McDonald’s - but down the line, it could end in higher prices for consumers as well.
The problem has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, but there are other reasons why the UK is experiencing such a huge shortage of truck drivers.
In the first half of 2020, a staggering 14,000 lorry drivers returned to the EU as the end of the Brexit transition period loomed on 31st December 2020. By July 2021, just 600 of these same drivers had returned to the UK.
This exodus of truck drivers is arguably the biggest reason the UK is seeing a shortage.
The UK government also recently scrapped plans to grant temporary work visas to HGV drivers from the EU, which would have allowed drivers a reprise while clearing the backlog of training new drivers.
Brexit isn’t the only thing that has been a source of logistics chaos in the last year. Since March 2020, coronavirus has contributed to driver shortages due to illness.
Thanks to successive lockdowns in the UK, there is now a backlog of drivers looking to take their HGV drivers license and start training.
Not to mention that coronavirus has disrupted supply chains across the country, meaning haulage firms are taking on more work than usual to get supply back to normal.
Cost of training
There are also inherent problems within the haulage industry that are causing shortages. With the cost of training to become an HGV driver at around £3,500, the job is unattainable for some.
Similarly, the waiting time to process truck driving licenses has increased from 12 weeks to 16 weeks - that’s a long time to be out of work.
Truck drivers have also warned that long hours that are part and parcel of the job could deter new drivers.
Of course, the shortage of drivers is exacerbating the problem of long hours. Some truck drivers have described shifts that have lasted three months, with just 45 hours of downtime.
Unfortunately, truck driver wages don’t always make up for the long hours. In the last five years, truck drivers have seen a pay rise of 10%, compared to 16% for other UK employees.