Is the driver shortage about to ease as Transport & Logistics applications rise?

Have you ordered your turkey yet? We’ve all seen the headlines proclaiming that Christmas will be ruined yet again this year – but this time not because we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

The fate of Christmas 2021 apparently lies in the hands of HGV drivers, of which the Road Haulage Association estimates there is a shortage of up to 100,000. Because of this shortage, supermarkets and retail stores are experiencing supply issues. GPs, too, are reporting delays to flu vaccines and blood test tubes vials arriving at their surgeries.

However, WaveTrackR data has shown that in August applications within the Transport & Logistics sector increased for the first time since April. Could the rise in jobs, widely publicised increased salaries and signing on bonuses be taking affect?

Supply chain worries

IKEA has become the latest retail giant, joining Tesco, Morrisons, Iceland and toy retailer The Entertainer (alongside many more), to warn that driver shortages are causing product shortages and could increase prices.

Morrisons has said that that it expects prices will rise over the course of the rest of the year as a result of the shortage. Most consumers will have seen gaps on supermarket shelves or been handed a series of substitutions on their shopping delivery.

In August Logistics UK and the British Retail Consortium jointly wrote to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, warning that action needs to be taken or the impact on supply chains will only worsen, especially as Christmas – the busiest period in the retail and logistics year – is fast approaching. From September onwards retailers will be stock building in preparation for the Christmas period so a strong supply chain is essential.

Historic driver shortages

Some in the industry have been warning of driver shortages for years, given the majority of the workforce is made up of older workers (the average age of HGV drivers in the UK is 55) and there has been a lack of younger workers wanting to join the industry.

The estimated shortage pre-COVID was around 60,000 drivers. In comes the double whammy of a pandemic which paused HGV driver training and testing for 12 months and Brexit which led to thousands of EU drivers leaving the UK (an estimated 25,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the Brexit transition period; the ONS Labour Force Survey found that only approximately 600 EU lorry drivers had returned to the UK by July 2021) and it’s unsurprising we are left with a driver shortage.

High training costs have been a deterrent and a change to IR35 tax meaning that agency workers have had to pay more tax and agencies need to pay NI contributions haven’t helped. Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy and public affairs at the Road Haulage Association, has said that the industry is losing more lorry drivers week on week than they are gaining.

Could the tide be turning for applications?

WaveTrackR data has been confirming the shortages trend through a downwards trajectory for job applications in the sector.

The data found that the average applications per job in Transport & Logistics fell each month from March to June, leading to the sector experiencing amongst the lowest applications per job across all industries.

However, the tide finally seems to be turning as that number has been rising since July, concurrent with the general rise in applications for roles in the industry over July and August. This has culminated in the highest level of applications being received all year in August.

Why? Perhaps salary increases, which WaveTrackR has logged as solidly increasing between quarter 2 and quarter 3, and golden hellos have impacted the rise in applications or maybe the backlog of driver training, tests and licenses being issued starting to clear means that a drip-feed of new candidates are now entering the market. Whatever the reasons, the data is encouraging.

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