The decline in the number of middle-aged and EU truck drivers has contributed to the departure of more than 50,000 people from their jobs over the past four years in the UK, creating the most severe shortage on record and disrupting business.
Heavy truck drivers in the UK peaked in the year ending June 2017 at around 321,000. Since then the total has fallen by 53,000, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday. a decrease of 16%.
The number of drivers aged 46 to 54 has since fallen 39% to 34,000, the largest drop of any age group. During the same period, the number of truck drivers in the EU fell by 30%, or 12,000 people.
The decline should persist as few new drivers are entering the profession. In the year ending June 2021, 16,022 heavy truck driving exams were taken, down from an average of 41,731 per year over the previous five years.
The drop in the number of drivers came as demand for goods increased, the economy reopened and e-commerce took off, leading to an increase in the number of job vacancies.
There were 52,000 vacancies in transport and storage during the three-month period July to September, the highest on record. Heavy truck drivers make up about one tenth of the people employed in this industry.
The ONS reported that more than one in five UK companies said the lack of carriers or logistics equipment was a challenge. Almost a third of consumers had difficulty obtaining groceries, drugs or other essentials.