Carry on trucking

I have written a piece requested by  Conservative Home which they published  today on the shortage of truck drivers.


  1. Donna
    August 30, 2021

    I read this piece with interest and noted, amongst other causes identified, one is the lack of decent overnight facilities for truck drivers.
    That is certainly true: overnight facilities on our motorway and trunk road networks are insufficient, inadequate and -certainly in the case of truck parks at motorway service stations – expensive. With margins very tight, the cost of a couple of overnight stops can be prohibitive to the driver. So HGV drivers park up for free where possible; using laybys or quieter roads close to the network …. often leaving litter and other far worse personal detritus for the road maintenance crews to clean up after them.
    We should aim for more and better overnight parking provision with a limit on the amount which can be charged for it, and at the same time restrictions imposed on overnight parking in laybys and other un-registered sites to deter “wild” parking with all the maintenance costs and health hazards it results in.

    1. Pauline Baxter
      August 30, 2021

      Stop denigrating them. They are more intelligent and better trained than most of the so called middle class, office working, bureaucrats.
      I tried to comment on Conservative Home but that is a useless site.
      If I remember rightly Sir John suggests raising their pay and conditions to attract our own people into the ‘profession’ and raising their STATUS. Quite right. But that is for the trucking companies to address surely, not interfering politicians or bureaucrats.
      There is certainly no good reason to import cheap labour from other countries.
      We need far LESS immigration of any sort at all!

  2. Dave Andrews
    August 30, 2021

    I think there is also a need for haulage companies to train and employ their own drivers, rather than getting in contractors that have to supply their own truck.
    I can understand haulage companies being hesitant to have people on PAYE, when they are hammered for so much employment tax and can end up hand-cuffed to a bad employee.

  3. The Prangwizard
    August 30, 2021

    I’d like to think we as a country will see, if the government remains firm on restricting of worker importation, a change in our whole attitude to making things and all work connected. Better pay and improved conditions should attract more people, and with better pay comes better status.

    Business owners should take a positive view. The principle of adding value and quality to the product should apply to their labour too.

  4. Nota#
    August 30, 2021

    Sir John – good observations as always. The UK needs to find its way back to good Conservative principles, as alluded to in an earlier response today @J Bush – “low tax, small State favouring free enterprise, private ownership, and conserving socially traditional ideas” There is no perfect answer to anything being thrown at us nowadays but these principles and the ethos of the State giving ‘people’ their lives back and putting their trust in the ‘people’ always gets repaid ten times over.

    Elsewhere in the MsM one of the ‘talking heads’ remarked that those having problems with the UK truck shortages were the ones that have sort to undermine the industry and the country from the get go. It was also observed the same people were from foreign domiciled companies and previously spokesmen for remain. Conversely truckers employed with UK contributing companies.

    Relative earnings is missed and dismissed. A trucker spending 10 hours a day a good chunk of it on the horrendous and dangerous ‘smart motorways’ then having to sleep in the cab of their truck is not exactly living in the life of luxury. Is it a 10 hour day or 24 hour day they don’t actually get to sleep in their own beds each night.

    1. Ed M
      August 31, 2021

      ‘low tax, small State favouring free enterprise, private ownership, and conserving socially traditional ideas’

      – Conservastism is far more than this. By over-focusing essentially on just the money aspect of Conservatism you reduce the broader cultural aspect of Conservastism or building up a civilisation based on many different cultural values – not just money. Our GREAT country would then be a lot happier, more interesting and probably richer overall (certainly at least with a more stable, long-term economy).

    2. Ed M
      August 31, 2021

      Your Conservatism is like the Conservatism focused on the money-making merchant when it should also be the Conservatism of the gentry, the soldier, the artist / musician, the family man, the labourer, the doctor, the scientist, the Oxford don, the vicar, the school master, and so on. Its too narrowly focused.

      1. Ed M
        August 31, 2021

        I wish more Tories listened to Edmund Burke (True Conservative) than Donald Trump (a Yankee with lots of money he inherited from his Daddy) and read more Jane Austen novels or something – with Jane Austen and her world representing so many of the values which make Conservatism and our country GREAT.
        This is England. Let’s protect our GREAT nation from vulgar, modern, largely American, nouveau-riche values (nothing wrong at all with new money but not of the vulgar variety).

  5. Lifelogic
    August 30, 2021

    All good points well made.

    Sort out DVLC, the driver testing delays, abolish the appalling IR35, get GPs to do driver medical certs. quickly. Also stop road blocking so trucks are stuck in traffic less and can use more direct routes. Thus fewer trucks and drivers needed and less pollution.

    As usual the government is the main problem.

    1. Peter2
      August 30, 2021

      As usual you have LL you have illustrated the main reasons for the current shortages.
      IR35 is another problem.

      1. Lifelogic
        August 31, 2021


  6. X-Tory
    August 30, 2021

    The shortage of lorry drivers in the UK is due to a number of factors:

    (i) Poor pay and conditions – this is the fault of the employers and they are correcting it (as happens in a free market);
    (ii) changes in the IR35 – this is the fault of the stupid government and they are doing nothing about it;
    (iii) A lack of driving tests because of lockdowns – this is the fault of the stupid government, but fortunately the effects of this should now slowly reduce;
    (iv) The length of time it takes to train drivers – this is the fault of the stupid government’s regulations, and they are doing nothing about it;
    (v) drivers being ‘pinged’ and forced to isolate – this is the fault of the stupid government, but now that doubled-vaxxed people no longer need to self-isolate this should resolve itself.

    A sensible and efficient government would soon resolve the problem of a shortage of lorry drivers, but unfortunately we have a very stupid and incompetent government, so this will take a lot longer than necessary.

    1. Micky Taking
      August 31, 2021

      ‘A sensible and efficient government would soon resolve the problem of a shortage of lorry drivers’.
      the clue is in the first words…

  7. bigneil - newer comp
    August 30, 2021

    Another load arrived on our land – as the comment with the photo says – no passports no ID – but all had a charged mobile phone, clean clothes ???? – Certainly NOT been living rough in Calais. All will be in hotels tonight, fed and bed, warm, dry, hot water, heating etc etc – and our homeless on the streets will have???
    None of you have any concern for us – nor shame.

    1. alan jutson
      August 30, 2021

      Big Neil

      Do not blame us, the problem is with the Government, I think it is an absolute disgrace that (in particular ex military personnel) and long standing homeless Uk nationals are still sleeping on the street, whilst room is made for illegal foreigners, to be housed for many months, in tax funded and paid for hotel staycations, in ever increasing numbers, without a blink in the eye to UK taxpayers who fund it all.

  8. Everhopeful
    August 30, 2021

    Lovely article I thought. Utterly, unrelentingly sensible!
    Loads of very good comments on there too with any number of different explanations for the problem.

    I reckon the shortage is due to drivers ( and probably lorries) being nicked by HS2 and the fact that lorries are set to become 2 metres longer.Imagine getting one of those round a tight corner on a trunk road going through an ancient Suffolk town! Most off putting.
    Plus aren’t lorry drivers always getting pinged?

    1. Everhopeful
      August 30, 2021

      I’m pretty sure that lorry drivers were very happy with their lot in the 80s/early90s.
      Tales of open roads, cosy cabins and fantastic ferry food. Good wages too!
      Then something changed ( was it the EU? Tachometers?Traffic jams where none had existed? Foreign lorries?)and the job became very fraught. Many experienced drivers quit.
      I also knew graduates who trained in HGV and failed to get jobs!
      Govts have worked very hard at making jobs undoable.
      No wonder “furlough”🤮 was so popular.

      1. alan jutson
        August 30, 2021


        It was the price of UK fuel and the unrelenting road, lorry, and self employed owner/Driver taxes and Regulations in this Country over many years which eventually all heaped on the ever rising other costs which crucified many a small business owner.

        1. glen cullen
          August 30, 2021


        2. Everhopeful
          August 30, 2021

          Ah thanks.
          I did wonder. So many people made so unhappy.

      2. MiC
        August 30, 2021

        Mobile phones were invented and became ubiquitous.

        1. Micky Taking
          August 31, 2021

          shame we went on from the house-brick model.

  9. DOM
    August 30, 2021

    So before CV19 there wasn’t a shortage and now we’re building back bullshit there is?

    There does appear to be a lack of everything. Truth. Democracy. Freedom. Decent leaders. Respect for our rights. But not a lack of State spending on Building Back Marxism.

    I can smell bullshit, contrivance and a deliberate nobbling of the way we normally live our lives.

    We are being played, royally, by what is the worst leader this nation has ever known

    1. Everhopeful
      August 30, 2021

      If there really is a shortage of lorries could it be due to the rolling out of huge “eco lorries” that they think will reduce the number of journeys and thus accidents?
      They are sneakily removing lorries now and of course will need fewer drivers?
      They must be planning to completely overhaul the whole haulage system with the usual disastrous results no doubt!

      1. a-tracy
        September 2, 2021

        Everhopeful, there is certainly something going on that is odd.

        What is the average number of HGV drivers that train and pass their test each month (I’d estimate 30,000 per month pass, class 1 about 20,000 per month), how many have been training and taking tests in the past 18 months? You can’t suddenly do twice as many to catch up unless you involve the British army, it needs to be done. They have off road test centres and people qualified to deliver the necessary training quickly as they would in a case of war. If we don’t train and test because of covid then why the shock now? This was all very predictable. It’s like wondering why there are so many weddings booked for the next 12 months! It’s just a backlog and insufficient trainers to catch up so use the armed forces as we are in desperate catch up need.

        Less imports = less EU driver floating around the UK looking for low cost back loads to get back to the port with. An Eu driver that drops a full load in Manchester will often look for loads from Manchester on websites heading back South in round-robin type low cost deliveries rather than return empty, if we import less which isn’t altogether a bad thing then there are less cheap backloads.

        Plus the Eu governments have been pushing and pushing for rail freight, Tesco have been brag, brag, bragging with pop up videos on all sorts of blogs and websites about how much less road freight they have been using in the past couple of years, if rail is so good and passenger trains have dropped so much then there will be more space not less space on the rail to do catch up long distance rail journeys and train drivers available to do more freight runs.

        If you have done 100,000 less tests and less people training because of covid what is everyone expecting? It isn’t sustainable, free up the training services, training centres, advertise for existing retired HGV drivers to become trainers and assessors for a couple of years pay them well and they’ll turn up.

  10. glen cullen
    August 30, 2021

    A foreign HGV diver and vehicle delivering goods in the UK are allowed to stay in the UK for a further 6 months undertaking additional work before leaving the UK
    Unscrupulous operators have used this situation to their advantage to engage those drivers and vehicles without having to pay road tax, insurance, UK pay rate or pass a MOT – putting UK business out of work
    This government could’ve implement a ‘one drop – one pickup’ policy… chose not too, the current situation is one of this conservative government own making

  11. bigneil - newer comp
    August 30, 2021

    Off Topic – but relevant to other blogs you have made John.
    Copied from another site

    “about to lose 700 acres(280 ha) of top class arable land that grew bruseel sprouts until recently to solar panels and housing. Madness”

    Grow more of our own food? Where? Free housing ( and everything else ) for anyone from anywhere – 800 a day arrive – and all expect – and inevitably get – for free – what WE have to pay for – AND pay for theirs too. And the world keeps getting welcomed. Will the govt EVER admit this is effectively genocide?

    1. glen cullen
      August 30, 2021

      20,000 from Afghan; govt spokesman ‘well that’s less than what we’re getting every month from the Channel’….and we do need extra delivery drivers

  12. jon livesey
    August 30, 2021

    Great article, and we should note that the same principles apply more widely than trucking. We ought to notice that the complaints about shortages of labour are coming from employers in low-wage, currently very labour-intensive, parts of the economy.

    There is a superstition that you can’t automate farming, or cleaning, or food processing, and it simply isn’t true. With floor robots you no longer need to mop, and it’s idiotic for people to waste their lives pushing a mop around. People like to think of arming in romantic labour-intensive ways, but all over the developed World new companies are being formed to do highly automated vertical farming.

    We have to stop depending on cheap imported labour in general, and we ought not to be the automatic safety valve for the EU’s very high and persistent levels of unemployment.

    The trouble is that being surrounded by labour-intensive methods is familiar and comfortable, and what’s worse this creates an easy pool of support for Labour to exploit. Labour will never work to eliminate low-wage jobs because they depend on that political support too much.

  13. Everhopeful
    August 30, 2021

    Oh no!
    No more trucking at all…not even with the extra 2 metres.
    HGVs to go…scrapped….and motorways to be overhead wired for tram trucks!!
    Would that be driverless?

    1. jon livesey
      August 30, 2021

      You just reinvented railways.

    2. No Longer Anonymous
      August 30, 2021

      Um… I think you’re describing what they used to call railways there.

  14. Sea_Warrior
    August 30, 2021

    Give this government another year and it will be demanding that all lorry-drivers, like constables, have to have degrees.

    1. glen cullen
      August 30, 2021

      …and none binary uniforms

    2. Micky Taking
      August 31, 2021

      it takes about a year for HGV, including classroom stuff, and some financial investment.

  15. Richard1
    August 30, 2021

    Heavens, I hope you haven’t challenged the shibboleth that it’s all due to Brexit, that would be most discombobulating for continuity remain types!

  16. Oldtimer
    August 30, 2021

    Good article. The market (through better pay and conditions) and sensible government action one testing and regulation (a big ask of the Dept of Transport) should provide the solution.

  17. No Longer Anonymous
    August 30, 2021

    A good article, Sir John.

    A truck driver can do immense amounts of damage and injury if he makes a mistake. It is a highly skilled and stressful job with much forward planning of routes needed and an ability to adapt and problem solve when things go wrong.

    I passed my HGV class 1 in the nineties (just) but never used it. To be honest I was too scared to take a job. It’s one thing passing the test but doing the work is another thing entirely. It is absolutely fraught with liability and I know that it takes time to become a driver that is employable, otherwise hauliers avoid inexperienced drivers like the plague. There needs to be on-the-job mentoring as well as driver training.

    I saw at the time that the pay and conditions were not commensurate with the work and that got worse after 1997.

    I am appalled that the May administration knew full well that such skills shortages were coming but were concentrated so much on staying in the EU that they did not prepare for leaving. Boris was not meant to have won the last general election. This if shortages being down to Brexit are true, which I don’t think they are.

  18. Bryan Harris
    August 31, 2021

    Sensible comments in Conservative Home.

    When did we start poaching trained personnel from abroad, when we became too lazy to do what was required?
    I suspect it was in that period after the ’97 election that saw us begin to import people at a staggering rate – unfortunately we are still paying the price for these awful policies.

  19. Mike Wilson
    August 31, 2021

    A young man becomes an HGV driver. A job needing qualifications, skill and which involves long, lonely hours away from home. He wants to have a wife and a couple of kids. Does he deserve to be able to buy his own home?

    My son has just bought a 2 bed terrace in Mr. Redwood’s neighbouring constituency- Bracknell. He is paying £395k for it. Should a young lorry driver earn enough to buy a similar property – tiny with barely room to swing a cat with a garden most would think of as a patio?

    If so, that driver needs to be earning at least £60k and will still need a 6 x salary mortgage. And/or his wife will have to work too and dump the kids in nurseries etc.

    Hopefully a labour shortage will see wages go up. But then, of course, prices will need to go up and we’ll have inflation. Then interest rates will go up and mortgages will go up. It seems young people are screwed regardless – basically by the insane banking system we have.

  20. Andy
    August 31, 2021

    I have been enjoying reading the Brexit woes of a chap called Archie Norman – former Tory MP and now chair of M&S.

    In the Mail on Sunday he has been whining about Brexit border checks on his lorries. He calls it a ‘fandango of bureaucracy.’ Loads of checks and masses of pointless paperwork. So much so that the Mail wrote an accompanying piece demanding the U.K. and EU work together to do something about it. Erm, that is what the EU is. 27 countries working together to eliminate pointless bureaucratic barriers between them. That is, literally, what the organisation you left exists to do.

    Mr Norman mistakenly claims that Spanish cheese makers and Italian producers have as much to lose we do. Erm, no Mr Norman. They only face this pointless bureaucracy when trading with 0.75% of one country – us. (The Brexit barriers don’t apply to NI). We face these trade barriers whilst trading with three dozen countries.

    There is little doubt M&S has had a particularly disastrous Brexit. Unlike other supermarkets they appeared woefully under-prepared for the huge amounts of pointless bureaucracy the Brexitists have imposed on us. One wonders if Mr Norman’s background – as a Tory MP – is largely to blame for M&S’s Brexit failure. Maybe he believed the Brexitist nonsense. One wonders. If I were a shareholder I’d want him gone.

    Anyway now Mr Norman has learned the hard way what a border is – and what a monumental pain in the arse it is for business. Perhaps he can share his new found knowledge with this useless government and its Brexity friends.

    1. MiC
      September 1, 2021

      Yes, it’s a bit of a giggle that, isn’t it?

    2. Peter2
      September 1, 2021

      Did you only read the headlines of this article Andy?

      He was mainly talking about the problems of exporting to Europe.
      Problems unnecessarily imposed by the EU.

      And the peculiar new difficulties in sending goods to Northern Ireland for sale in their Northern Ireland shops.

    3. alan jutson
      September 1, 2021


      Just think of the fun we could have with Scotland if ever or whenever they join the EU after getting “Independence”

      Problems sending goods Via England and Northern Ireland, so its would be long distance lorry drivers on long distance ferries.

      Always the Airports as an alternative though I guess.

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