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Driver Shortage?

This is an area where we've carried out a great deal of unpaid research and analysis to support our industry. The alleged UK driver shortage has become a 'brand' and almost universally accepted received wisdom. Identifying and drilling into key data, and making paid FOI requests, we have confirmed that the largest LGV-qualified group in the country is formed of people who choose not to drive, and who perceive a shortage of respect, of facilities and of acceptable scheduling.

We love projects that involve data analysis & research in any part of logistics - please do get in touch if we can help you.

2023: See the first post on DQC numbers in the section below this one.

2021 & 2022: Various reports from the Driver Require Think Tank, to which Aricia has contributed.

Jan 2016: There is No Driver Shortage - Kirsten's groundbreaking and influential piece on driver numbers.

Jan 2004: Motor Transport - Driver Shortage - yes, we've been talking about this for a long time article by Kirsten on the very same topic!

The remainder of this page is extracts from our logistics and retail updates page which will have some interest or relevance to those interested in the driver crisis.

DQC Update

20 October 2023

Periodically Aricia makes a request from DVLA for an update about how many CE and C-only drivers have DQCs - we think that gives a better feeling for the state of play than the number of people saying they work as Large Goods Vehicle Drivers. And the picture for this update is a series of graphs, which are explained below this image.

Aricia Update - HGV Drivers - DQC numbers - logistics statistics

Looking at the graph at top left first, the reason that there are irregular gaps between the bars on the chart, is because the data is only available when we've made an information request. We've coloured this data dark blue for CE drivers, those that can drive artics, and light blue additionally for C-only drivers, those who can drive big rigids but not artics. While we don't know what's gone on in the gaps (in particular in 2021, when I didn't have the heart to ask an organisation that was plainly under stress), we can see that there is a general upward trend.

Looking at the chart at bottom left next, we can see that there has been an increase in all areas since 2015 (before the Brexit vote in 2016). There's been an increase in those with a licence and medical (able to do the job with one week's training), an increase in those with a DQC (ready to do the job now) and a small increase in those doing the job. Obviously there are other reasons for having a licence - you may be a scaffolder, but need an HGV licence to carry your scaffolding around. You may be lucky enough to be rich enough to have horses and a large truck to transport them around in. But many people will be available and, according to job ad stats, looking for an HGV driving role.

The two graphs on the right show the age profile in two different years, and the arrows show that drivers have become eight years older during this period, and moved from the start of one bar to the end of the next. What these graphs show is how different the age profile of those immediately able to do the job is in 2023. Yes, we have what I think of as the Stalwarts, those drivers who have been in the industry all their lives, but we now also have a good tranche of younger drivers available, thanks to the various initiatives taken by the DfT and various industry bodies.

If you'd like the image as a pdf which you can download and save, here it is: DQC Update Autumn 2023.

Do haulage buyers have the upper hand?

11 May 2022

Road haulage spot rates have started rising again and so has driver pay. There’s a seasonal pattern: quiet following the excess of Christmas …and then things start to pick back up in spring.

What you’re seeing on the graph is two indices – the TEG index for haulage (dark blue dotted line) and an index for HGV driver pay that I’ve created from Adzuna data (light blue) – more about that in a minute. Although I’ve not included diesel on the graph, you can’t talk about road transport without talking about diesel. It was actually quite low priced when the TEG was running under the driver pay index before, during 2020, because of lockdowns and low demand due to the pandemic, but that is certainly not the case now.

So, the HGV driver pay index. The data comes from a portal Adzuna is currently developing – it contains all sorts of info related to jobs that have been advertised. I’ve taken the annual salary nearest the middle of each month and only included roles in the logistics sector that required an HGV licence, so excluding engineering and other roles. I also excluded entry level roles to avoid any distortion from the current large number of training ads. I then converted those salaries to an index base of 100 at the start of 2019, so it’s easy to compare.

Continued below the graph...

Aricia Update - Teg index - haulage - Adzuna - HGV pay - inflation - Logistics Update

Haulage rates are considerably higher than they were, we can see that from the TEG index. But with a combination of driver pay remaining high, diesel very high and with the capital cost of kit significantly higher over the past year or so, I can’t believe how comparatively low the TEG haulage index is at the moment. In its latest Business Insights report, the Office for National Statistics noted that 56% of Transport & Storage businesses reported an increase in the price of materials, goods and services bought …but only 35% had passed on all or some of those increases.

Because demand is low. We know that, for example, retail food volumes have been lower recently. We know that current HGV traffic levels aren’t high but, because the DfT traffic index only started in March 2020, we don’t know what normal looks like for this time of year. We know that the ONS report had as its first key point that 20% of businesses reported their turnover decreased in March 2022 compared with February 2022, whereas only 14% reported turnover had increased.

It certainly looks as if buyers have the upper hand at the moment …even if they might not feel that to be the case!

Is this why people don't work as HGV drivers?

8 December 2020

Yesterday the Office for National Statistics published some estimates from its Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). I've combined two of the many data sets in the diagram below. What are the boxes in the diagram all about? It's my attempt to show the span of hours and span of pay for most full time employees working in the UK as a whole and for some specific occupations. See below the diagram for a description of how to read it.

Aricia Update Diagram - ASHE - Annual Survey of Hours & Earnings - 8 December 2020 - ONS - Hours - Wages - Logistics Statistics

On the x-axis is paid hours worked per week - the span of each box goes from the figure for the 10th percentile through to the 90th - if we look at the red box for the UK as a whole, it means that 80% of employees work somewhere in that span of hours (so it excludes the extremes at each end). And the y-axis shows gross weekly pay, and again the span runs from the 10th to 90th percentiles, so that 80% of employees get paid somewhere in that span. It's important to note that it will be a different 80% for the x and y elements of each box, but there will be a broad overlap.

Note the red spot which marks both median hours and median pay - so 50% of employees in the UK work less paid hours per week and 50% of employees get less gross weekly pay than indicated by the spot. You can see that FLT drivers are virtually all working more hours than the UK average, and that HGV drivers work considerably more!

NB ASHE covers employee jobs in the United Kingdom - it does not cover the self-employed, nor does it cover employees not paid during the reference period. Hourly and weekly estimates are provided for the pay period that included a specified date in April. They relate to employees on adult rates of pay, whose earnings for the survey pay period were not affected by absence. Estimates for 2020 include employees who have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The forklift truck driver entry is described as an estimate as the ONS has not tried to estimate the 90th percentile for either pay or hours - I have based them on the other storage occupation shown.

No driver shortage at the moment

4 April 2020

Well, this is a different sort of an update for the different sort of time we live in. No stats or graph, more of a blog, but very relevant to the logistics industry.

Coronavirus gets going and everyone is panic buying – the grown-ups make a fuss about people shopping, telling people it’s unnecessary. But the concept of the need to feed the nation is born, with drivers hours regs relaxed to accommodate. My husband who has an up to date CE licence and medical, but let his DCPC expire in September, feels that he ought to be available to help this push to get food to where it needs to be. So he books a DCPC course starting Monday 23 March.

We get up two mornings running at 4.30am for him to be early for a 7.30 start on the other side of the Cotswolds. First day (long story – we’re not stupid and we did our best on Saturday on the web and by phone), he doesn’t find it until c8am and is told that he and another latecomer can’t join the course. So he comes home. That evening Johnson makes an announcement, but no-one from the training rings to say it’s not going ahead, so we have another 4.30am get up – this time there are three of them hanging around in the street – the trainer never appears, doesn’t ring...

At this point we’re £450 down and the company that he booked the course through are refusing to refund his money. After a bit of argy bargy, they do get him booked on the first-ever internet-based driver CPC course, and so we spent the whole of last week with our home office given up to all-day all-week Zoom-based training.

We’d agreed that because of my husband’s age (he’s not 'old', but if he catches Coronavirus, they won’t consider reviving him a high priority on the basis of his birth certificate!), he was only going to drive if it involved foods, pharmaceuticals etc – things that were really necessary.

So what’s the point of telling you this – well, there’s certainly no driver shortage at the moment. There’s certainly no excuse for further relaxation of the drivers hours regs. He rang one of the local agencies during the week – there’s no driving work of any kind. End of.

Why don't people want to be HGV drivers?

10 November 2018

There is a driver crisis, but we need to tackle it rather than exaggerate. We need to make the jobs attractive. There are over 940K people with HGV licences and up to date medicals, including over 100K people aged 25-45 with C+E licences who choose not to use them. There is a crisis, not a shortage. If you want to understand the graph fully, then read my four-pager here: Driver Crisis

Aricia Update - Driver Crisis - 10 November 2018 - driver numbers - driver ages - Logistics Statistics

Update on driver numbers

21 August 2017

Last week the BBC carried the news that UK unemployment has fallen to a 42-year low, and I imagine that there are people in the logistics industry thinking that the driver crisis will get worse.

During August, two stats that are of interest to the road transport industry have been released by the ONS: the SPPI index for freight transport by road and the number of people working as LGV drivers. Earlier this summer, and for the first time in over a year, the figures for the number of people with LGV licences was released by DVLA. And also, during the spring, the FTA's Logistics Report 2017.

The graph below shows the various driver related-figures - the number of C&CE licences (on the left hand side) is for GB only, the number of people working as large goods vehicle drivers (the middle block) is for the UK including Northern Ireland. The relative size of the 'shortage' can clearly be seen - the tiny block on the right hand side of the graph.

This update continues below the graph...

Aricia Update Graph - driver numbers - HGV - LGV - DVLA - DfT - ONS - FTA - 21 August 2017 Logistics Statistics

The number of licences held is for people with medicals, but not necessarily DQCs it would take just a week's training, with no test, for that not to be an issue if someone wanted to get work in our industry. It looks as if CE(db) is drivers with a 102 code - ie restricted to drawbars, although I'd like to see that in writing. It doesn't include more than a quarter million provisional LGV licences.

What the SPPI index for freight transport by road shows (not on the graph) is that haulage rates have risen by less than 1% over the whole of the past five years.

Brexit is coming and the driver crisis is not about to solve itself - something has to change.

You can find the various sets of statistics here:

If you found this piece interesting, you may be interested in our page on the driver crisis.

Could Brexit deliver positive change in UK logistics?

24 October 2016

The newspapers are currently full of all the disadvantages, both realised and potential, that arise from the "decisive result"* in the EU referendum. Assuming the country does go ahead with Brexit, there is potential improvement it could bring to the logistics industry and that is revision of hours rules that apply to drivers of heavy goods vehicles on non-international journeys.

In fairness to the EU, I think that the legislators had envisaged time would be more controlled by the amount of driving that could be undertaken, and hadn't foreseen a situation where the UK driver's life consisted of so much hanging around for one reason and another. Are the long days that have resulted, certainly in this country, one of the things that stops driving being an attractive job option?

Before EU drivers' hours regulations came along, the Transport Act of 1968 restricted the driver's working day to 12.5 hours through what was referred to as "spreadover".

And that was the case up until the amendments in 1986, which abolished the 1968 limits on driver duty when a driver was covered by EC rules - the new provisions on rest periods within the EC rules were seen as effectively limiting the hours for which a driver could be on duty.

In 2005 the Working Time Directive was applied to the road transport industry, with the very weak interpretation of PoAs (Periods of Availability) that was adopted in the UK. And that weak interpretation was accompanied by a casual approach to its use, in many ways turning what should have been protective legislation into just another administrative task.

However, until 2007, any reduction in daily rest from 11 to 9 hours still had to be made up by the end of the following week. After EC regulation 561/2006 was introduced in April 2007, no rest compensation was required.

Could a return to the past be helpful? Certainly pay would need to reflect the change as drivers would still have the same rent to pay and families to feed. It would not be an easy pill for industry to swallow. But I'm interested in how much could be made up for by efficiencies: reducing PoAs, which are often effectively an admission of wasted driver time. Would limiting the length of the working day back to the 12.5 hour spreadover help to make the job more attractive?

That change in April 2007 means that each and every week can include three 15 hour days. And after each of those 15 hours days, the driver needs to travel home, eat and say goodnight, before sleeping for a few hours and then getting up again ...quite probably at what I've seen described as stupid o'clock. Would you want to work those hours?

*37.4% of the UK electorate voted "Leave" in the EU referendum.

As this update is more of a blog, with no statistics as such, I've gone for a Wordle rather than a graph this time - click the pic to see how to create your own:

Aricia Update - Brexit - drivers hours - legislation - spreadover - 24 October 2016 - Logistics - Wordle

Update on 9 Nov: It's great to see this piece reported on in Transport Operator as part of a piece on driver wages.