In one of the most welcome pieces of HGV drivers news, the average UK HGV drivers wage has increased at a quicker pace than inflation due to a skills shortage in the industry. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has said there is now a “drastic shortage of HGV drivers” in the UK, with the finger of blame being pointed at the failure of the HGV apprenticeship scheme and Brexit uncertainty.

A chronic lack of skills

RHA members have said they’re struggling to source and keep the skilled and experienced UK HGV drivers they need, with the impact being an increase in wages for those they do employ. General pay has increased by 2.75% according to a survey the RHA carried out in October last year, with articulated drivers’ hourly rates increasing by 5.4%.

A skills shortage means employers are willing to pay more for those who do tick all the boxes, so for those who have the skills and experience, this is welcome news. With wages increasing above inflation, take-home pay for the best HGV drivers stretches further and that’s to be welcomed during straitened economic times.

What’s causing the skills shortage?

The skills shortage in the road haulage sector is largely down to the failings of the Trailblazers apprenticeship scheme. Set up to help train new commercial HGV drivers, the Trailblazers scheme has added three more Level Two apprenticeships to the offering, but interest has been slow to build.

In addition to the low numbers taking these apprenticeships, the scheme has also been hamstrung by bureaucracy and the eyewatering Apprenticeship Levy from the government. So far the haulage industry has coughed up £150 million to the Apprenticeship Levy, pulling back just £10 million as a result of it.

This, coupled with Brexit uncertainty, has had a detrimental effect on the sector. Unsure of future restrictions on movement to and from the continent and with the value of the pound sterling diminished, the UK’s road haulage industry hasn’t been attracting HGV drivers from elsewhere. Altogether, this has contributed to the worst skills shortage the sector has ever known.

What next?

It seems likely the Trailblazers scheme will need to be re-examined and made to work, despite the crippling Apprenticeship Levy. If the skills gap is to be rectified, leading industry figures are also going to need to look for new ways to attract, train and retain top-class HGV drivers, finding more innovative ways to plug the gap in the future.