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HGV driver shortages risk causing crisis in the waste sector

The last month has seen a number of headlines focusing on the shortage of HGV drivers currently affecting logistics across the country. While many have focused on the effect that this is having on food deliveries, we are also experiencing driver shortages in the waste sector. 

At the start of August, members of the Environmental Services Association (ESA) – the trade body representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry – wrote a letter to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, addressing this issue. In it, the ESA warned of how the shortage would cause the sector considerable difficulties, affecting its ability to provide vital services. 

HGV drivers are essential to Casepak and the waste sector’s operations. Without drivers for our large vehicles, waste cannot be collected from local authorities’ transfer stations. This, in turn, can have a knock on effect on the quality of materials we receive, as well as causing difficulties with storage.  

The ESA’s letter estimates that there is a shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers across the UK economy, due in part to the high cost of HGV training, coupled with the increase in retail and food delivery services. The Association’s members report fifteen per cent vacancy rates, which they are struggling to fill.  

The pandemic has further limited the number of HGV tests able to take place, with 25,000 fewer drivers qualifying in 2020 compared to 2019. Meanwhile, Brexit has made it more difficult for EU nationals, who made up a large proportion of HGV drivers, to work in the UK. 

We are still witnessing higher volumes of waste as a consequence of the pandemic and lockdowns, resulting in an increased workload across the local authorities we work with. Urgent action is needed to address the shortage of qualified HGV drivers in the UK, particularly with the busy Christmas shopping season looming. 

The government has recently announced a consultation on changes to the testing regime. Hopefully, the number of drivers applying for licences will return to pre-pandemic levels in the near future.