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30 September 2021

How Brexit and Covid-19 caused the number of HGV drivers in the UK to plummet

The 37 per cent fall in EU drivers since March 2020 compares to a fall of only 5 per cent over the same period for UK nationals.

By Michael Goodier

The number of EU heavy goods vehicle drivers employed in the UK fell by more than a third in the last year, following Brexit and the Covid-19 crisis.

The 37 per cent fall in the number of EU drivers in the UK between March 2020 and 2021 compares to a dip of only 5 per cent in the same period for UK nationals, indicating that Brexit is at least partly to blame for the shortage of between 60,000 to 76,000 HGV licence holders in the country.

Countries across Europe are also experiencing HGV driver shortages. Separate figures from jobs website Indeed showed that postings for new drivers were up more than 80 per cent in Italy, 55 per cent in the UK, around 50 per cent in Germany and 23 per cent in France on February 2020.

However, European nations have been less affected by food shortages, as the single market allows for more flexibility in the labour market as drivers can be used across borders.

IR35 tax reforms have compounded the crisis, with the new rules meaning that drivers in the UK who work as contractors have to pay National Insurance contributions, among other things.

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The government has announced a temporary visa scheme to try and encourage 5,000 HGV drivers back to the UK for three months in the run-up to Christmas. That works out as less than a third of the 16,000 EU drivers lost between April and March 2021.

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[see also: The week Britain ran out]