Data presented by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today (Tuesday, October 19) reveals that the number of HGV driving tests during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic was the lowest for more than a decade.

This can largely be attributed to the suspension of tests between March and July 2020, and January and April 2021, because of lockdown restrictions across the country.

The shortage of HGV drivers across the UK has, over the past year, caused issues across supply chains for a range of sectors, including food and farming. Read more about this here.

There were 16,022 practical driving tests passed of the type required to become an HGV driver in the year ending March 2021, according to data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Department for Transport (DfT).

This is the lowest figure since records began in the year ending March 31, 2008.

The average annual number of practical test passes during the previous five-year period is 41,731.

The pass rate however, showed little variation; 58% for the year ending March 2021 compared to 59% the year prior.

Also in 2020, average hourly pay for HGV drivers decreased by 1.6%, but this is likely to have been affected by lockdown restrictions and furloughed workers.

Furthermore, the average hours HGV drivers worked a week in 2019 (48) decreased by two hours during the 2020 pandemic year to 46.

HGV driver industry

The data presented by the ONS today also showed that the number of people employed as HGV drivers in any industry has fallen by 53,000 in four years.

This figure is based off information in the Annual Population Survey, which shows a net fall of 42,000 UK nationals employed as HGV drivers since the year ending June 2017.

This means there were 15% fewer UK nationals working as HGV drivers in the year ending June 2021 than there were four years earlier.

Between June 2019 and June 2020, the year the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the decrease was the greatest, with 10% less UK nationals employed as HGV drivers that year.

There were 28,000 EU nationals working as HGV drivers in the year ending June 2021, which is 12,000 (30%) fewer than the year ending June 2017.

The age group with the largest decline of drivers over the past four years has been those aged 46-55 years old, falling by almost 34,000 (29%).

However, the HGV driver workforce is older than the average across the total employed population.

Between July 2020 and June 2021, 29% of HGV drivers were over the age of 56 – 10% higher than the overall employed population.