Many companies have been struggling with the UK's shortage of lorry drivers, which is causing massive supply issues. The mix between the pandemic, Brexit, and tax changes have all contributed to the HGV driver’s shortage. Hauliers estimate there is a shortage of over100,000 workers.
The BBC spoke to some people working for smaller operators to find out what is it like to be a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver in the industry.
Tom Reddy has been a lorry driver for more than 15 years and his pay was recently increased from £17.50 an hour to £24.50 - a 40% jump. "I've never known anything like it," he told the BBC's Wake Up To Money programme. "But they could pay me £80,000 a year and it wouldn't be enough, I want to leave." Mr. Reddy says it is difficult to have a family life considering the working hours this job demands. Apart from Brexit, Tom complained about the shifts, regularly sleeping in a lay-by, and the people’s rude attitude. All of these make him no longer want to continue in the job. He also blames gender imbalance in the workplace, as well as racism and xenophobia on the road for his decision to leave.
While he appreciates recent measures taken by the industry, to give more attention to the mental health of drivers, this isn't reason enough for Mr. Reddy to continue his job in the industry. However, he thinks it can be difficult for some people to leave the profession: "For many of us, it is hard to get out of, because it doesn't give you the skills other employers want, even though it is a highly skilled job."
Sam Waine works as a delivery driver for automobile parts distributor Euro Car Parts, but she is now trying to make a change to driving HGVs for a new challenge. "I enjoy the quietness, you can do what you like as long as you get the job done - and you feel a bit more free." Her previous role was as a care assistant, so the long shifts don’t represent an issue. Sam applied for her licence in January. Her provisional licence arrived after 1 month, but she sent it back after she noticed some mistakes regarding the category she was awarded for. As she is still waiting to get the job, Sam declared: "It's very frustrating at the moment - I can't risk getting a full-time job and having to quit a few weeks or months later. (…) I know a lot of companies need help and obviously, we need a job. It's not our fault - we're just waiting."
Nick Downing, an HGV owner, and driver has been activating in the industry for 43 years and has seen all the changes that have happened over that time. In the 1970s, when he first started, parking overnight and using free facilities in towns like public bathrooms were quite common. According to him, most have now closed, leaving few options available when driving in the UK. "On the Continent, their facilities are a lot better than our own and I think that's a lot of the reason why the younger generation are not coming into the job." He complaints that conditions "get worse every week" and people are often not very understanding.
"People don't want you parking in their back gardens or parking in lay-bys, and we don't want to either, to be honest (…) We're away five or six nights a week. We just want to feel secure and have facilities with a toilet and shower block. I don't think that's a lot to ask in the 21st century." He says that the time taken to find somewhere suitable to park at night can lead to delayed deliveries and resulting in lost revenues the next day.
Due to his experiences, Mr Downing says he cannot recommend his profession to young people."It's a sad thing to say, but I don't think you should. Maybe pay a bit more attention at school, instead of kicking a ball about like I did."
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