Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Chart of the Day
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.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

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.

[see also: The week Britain ran out]

Content from our partners
Prevent and protect – why looking after our oral health begins at home
How can Single Trade Windows support the growth of UK PLC?
Polling on the protocol: Westminster is a long way from Northern Ireland