Is there a lorry driver shortage in Europe? What is the situation across the Channel?

As the UK faces shortages on a range of products due to lack of HGV drivers, is the EU facing similar problems?

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 9:44 am

Businesses across the UK, covering a range of industries, have been facing supply chain issues due to the HGV driver shortage.

With recent plans recently announced by the British government to make it easier for EU drivers to travel and work in the UK, the country might be soon relying on foreign drivers to keep British businesses moving.

However, the situation across the Channel might not be that much better, as many of the same problems affecting UK HGV drivers also impact EU HGV drivers.

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Here’s what the situation is like for lorry drivers in the EU and whether they are also struggling with a HGV driver shortage.

Why is there a HGV driver shortage in the UK?

The HGV sector is facing several different issues all at the same time. Brexit caused the loss of EU HGV drivers and the pandemic delayed the influx of a new generation of drivers, causing an interruption in the supply of driving tests.

There are also widespread issues relating to pay and working conditions across the industry.

Overall, there is a shortage of 400,000 HGV drivers across Europe. Photo: U.J.Alexander / Getty Images / Canva Pro.

All these factors combine to mean that it’s estimated that the UK needs 100,000 more drivers to keep up with demand.

The UK government is considering temporary measures to lift the strain of the HGV driver shortage and the supply issues for businesses.

This includes offering roughly 5,000 temporary visas to EU lorry drivers for three months, ending on Christmas Eve, to make it easier for foreign drivers to work in the UK.

However, early response from EU HGV drivers show that many are reluctant to take the UK government up on its offer.

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Is there an EU HGV driver shortage?

The UK government seems to be banking on EU HGV drivers bringing goods into the UK, but the lorry driver shortage is not limited to the UK.

Over the past year, there have also been reports of shortages of lorry drivers across mainland Europe too.

Much like in the UK, the pandemic put a delay on new HGV drivers getting their licences. What’s more, many EU employees returned to their home countries after Brexit and chose other lines of work upon their return.

Similar issues to do with pay and poor working conditions mean that many EU countries are facing similar HGV driver shortages.

As early as 2020, logistics analysts Transport Intelligence reported that Germany had an industry gap of between 45,000 and 60,00 HGV drivers. Predictions for 2024 see this number increasing to up 185,000 by 2027.

In France, there has been a shortage of 43,000 drivers since 2019 and Italy reports a deficit in drivers of around 15,000.

Clearly, the problem is not isolated to the UK, but has been a common issue across Europe for the last couple of years. In total, Europe has an estimated shortage of 400,000 HGV drivers, according to Transport Intelligence.

Is there a fuel shortage in Europe?

Although the HGV driver shortage might be shared across Europe, EU countries are not facing the same difficulties in accessing fuel.

While there have been queues at some petrol stations across the UK, the British government has also emphasised in official advice that there is no fuel shortage. They advise not to panic buy fuel and only to buy what you absolutely need.

Some petrol stations have also introduced £30 caps to control the demand for fuel.