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How to prepare for the looming HGV driver shortage

By Ian | Oct, 02, 2023 | Blog

As a business, one of the most pivotal factors in your success is getting your product into the hands of your customers. While this may sound obvious, many companies can take it for granted when all is going well.

Of course, getting the product to your customers often heavily relies on the availability of HGV drivers – as has been experienced in recent times, a relatively small drop in drivers has caused major disruption in the UK’s supply chain.

Driver Require has been monitoring the UK’s driver shortage for several years prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, they concluded for several decades leading up to the outbreak there had been a “low-level chronic (long-term) seasonal shortage of HGV drivers but had not reached crisis level”.

The latest HGV driver shortage crisis in 2021/22 was thought to be caused by a further drop in driver numbers of some 23% (70,000) – however, new ONS data has revealed this figure to be far lower at just 15% (45,000) between the pre-pandemic period and crisis levels.

As the threshold is lower than first thought and with HGV drivers retiring at a rate faster than those coming in, it is likely another driver shortage crisis will happen if the industry does not act.

The next driver crisis was originally predicted as being twelve years away. However, with 12,000 HGV drivers leaving the industry and only 6,000 entering a year, and with the threshold being lower than first thought this is now predicted as being seven years away.

This seven-year prediction is primarily based on driver attrition caused by driver retirement vs those entering the industry year on year, not demand.

So, is there still a driver shortage in the UK, what impact might this have on your business, and how can you prepare for the looming HGV driver shortage?

What the data says and what we say

It’s no secret that the HGV driver industry is facing some serious threats. The recent ONS data has shown that it takes less to spark a driver crisis than previously thought, but this is only one side of the story.

Through conversations and experience across our diverse network of more than 1,000 delivery partners, we know there are more issues at play than driver attrition. With almost 500,000 Driver Qualification Cards set to expire before the end of 2024, the pool of current drivers will see a scattered reduction in availability as they undertake their mandated Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) refresher courses in the next year or so Coupled with this, the DCPC is a barrier to retention as older drivers are choosing to leave the industry early over re-taking the training every five years.

The impacts of the pandemic still rage on, import and export issues stemming from Brexit are still being worked out, supply and demand shifts from the war in Ukraine continue to prove unpredictable, and the worldwide cost of living increases all point towards lower demand.

But what happens when these issues begin to head towards resolution? Just one situational change could prove instrumental to the market, but what about two, or three in close succession?

Now, the ONS data might indicate the next HGV driver shortage is as many as seven years away, but that makes the dangerous presumption that consumer demand will remain at current levels.

In years past, the influence of one or two major world events could be negated in these forecasts, but in the uncharted territory the world’s economy currently finds itself in, there is potential for drastic change to happen quickly.

We could see wholesale changes in supply and demand levels, and if an “overnight spike” in demand arose, the next HGV driver shortage could be far, far closer than seven years away.

De-risking your supply chain

Supply chain problems in the UK are a result of labour shortages, trade barriers caused by Brexit, and global supply issues, among other things. Employee shortages as a whole have played a significant role in causing disruptions across various sectors, such as haulage, food and drink, hospitality, care and construction.

The UK has experienced a notable shortage of workers, reported in the ONS 1,124,000 job vacancies between December 2022 and February 2023.

These labour shortages are not unique to the UK, as many countries have faced similar challenges, particularly in the transport, construction and retail sectors to name a few. However, the UK’s labour shortages have been more severe than in most European countries, potentially exacerbated by post-Brexit changes to immigration rules.

So, let’s look at the impact this might have on your business.

As we mentioned and it may seem obvious, but if there aren’t enough drivers to go around then unfortunately, someone is going to miss out on the transport services they need. If your customers regularly experience delays in their deliveries, or your supply chain is impacted by late receipt of materials and components, this can have a catastrophic impact on the success, fluidity, and reactivity of your business.

There may not currently be a severe driver shortage, but as with many aspects of business, by the time you notice a problem, it can already be too late.

To de-risk your supply chain and secure the smooth operation of your organization, you need to plan ahead and have someone on your side that you can rely on.

Utilising the ‘dimmer switch’

To minimise the impact of a driver shortage and maximise your company’s efficiency in one fell swoop, X2 can act as a “dimmer switch”, flexing the resources used day to day to meet specific requirements.

Whether you need to ramp up for summer, secure availability for the festive period, or decrease your commitment level due to unexpected reductions in business activity, we’ve got you covered.

Save yourself money and free up driver availability for those who need it.

Extensive delivery partner network

Collaboration is key in this industry.

X2’s longstanding relationship with 1,000+ hauliers safeguards against driver shortages and makes us resilient to industry shifts, allowing us to provide a guaranteed service when our clients need it. If one partner is struggling for drivers, we will have another five who are not.

By building a comprehensive network of partners across the country and overseas, X2 not only provides unrivalled levels of carrier availability but also greatly simplifies the shipping process for the businesses we work with.

Our robust network not only means reliability, but flexibility and adaptability at a moment’s notice, too. With extensive ad hoc availability, we optimise backhaul opportunities and reduce the need for vehicles to drive back to base empty-handed.

When you work with X2, you can throw out the Rolodex and rely on a single point of contact, without a single point of failure.


It’s not all doom and gloom. With the news of this looming HGV driver shortage, the UK government has responded with increased HGV training provision and incentives to bring former drivers back into the fold.

In the meantime, get in touch to discuss how we can help you.