UK lorry driver numbers plunge 53,000 in four years, official figures show

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According to official figures, the number of lorry drivers in the UK has dropped by 53,000 in four years.

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The data shows EU drivers have dropped 30 percent since 2017, with the number dropping by 12,000. However, much of the overall decline was due to a decrease in UK driver numbers by 42,000 over the same period.

The lack of drivers has caused major problems for companies including supermarkets, which have struggled to maintain normal stock levels. The delay in the delivery of petrol also created a crisis in the courtyard as the drivers rushed to fill their tanks.


Businesses across the economy are dealing with rising costs to move goods, which are expected to be passed on to consumers.

The latest data shows stagnant wages and deteriorating conditions have been blamed for long-term driver shortages that have picked up pace over the past twelve months.

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Covid and Brexit have prompted EU drivers to stop working in the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that the number of HGV drivers working in the UK fell 17 percent to 268,000 in June, down from a peak of 321,000 in 2016-17. The haulage industry trade body estimates the UK needs an additional 100,000 lorry drivers.

The ONS report outlines issues facing the beleaguered freight industry, with an aging workforce, shortages of EU citizens and rising costs and red tape in the wake of Brexit.

The ONS said around a third (29 per cent) of lorry drivers aged 46 to 54 were working in the UK compared to June 2017, a drop of 34,000.

Nearly a third of all riders in the UK were aged 56 or older in 2020-21, with only less than 20 per cent aged between 19 and 35.

This has led to a record number of transport and storage vacancies in the UK – at 52,000 in the three months to the end of September, 49 per cent over pre-pandemic levels from January to March 2020, and with HGV drivers at around 10 per cent of that sector.

Lorry driver shortages are taking their toll in most areas in the UK, rapidly leaving supermarket shelves empty and most recently causing a crisis on Britain’s petrol forecourt, forcing the military to help with fuel delivery have to happen.

In a recent survey, nearly a third (29 per cent) of adults in the UK said they are struggling to buy some groceries, medicine or other essentials, the ONS said.

It said shortage of lorry driver could be one of the factors affecting the availability of items.

PA. Additional reporting by


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