Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 29 September 2021

Driver shortages - a view from the inside

Low pay and long hours have forced workers from the industry

Low pay and long hours have forced workers from the industry   (Click to enlarge)

Millions of workers have been travelling to work, hoping that they have enough fuel to get home or complete the school run. A shortage of fuel tanker drivers has led to late deliveries of fuel and panic buying, many petrol stations have had to close.

Low pay and poor working conditions have driven HGV drivers away from the industry. Now in a massive U-turn, the government is moving to grant temporary visas to EU drivers in the hope that vacancies will be filled. It may also use the army to carry out deliveries. In an admission of capitalist market failure, the government's own competition rules have been suspended!

Khalo Demenie, a member of Basingstoke Socialist Party, outlines their experiences working in the industry.

The driving industry is neglected. Conditions are so bad that fewer and fewer people want to do the job. Now there are serious issues with petrol stations with no petrol because of a lack of drivers, empty shelves in supermarkets, and it could get worse, impacting the whole economy.

I was an HGV driver for five years and really loved the job, but I had to stop because of poor working conditions and stress.

I have read in the papers recently that it costs £2,000 to get an HGV license. This is a lie. Most people don't pass at the first attempt, and it costs £500 to take an exam. I passed at the third attempt, costing me a total of £3,500. I also chose to do 'HIAB' training to be able to operate a crane on the back of a lorry. Overall, I spent a total of £5,000 on my class 2 license. That doesn't even qualify me to use a trailer, which needs another expensive exam.

The exam is strict, which is fair enough because of the risks and responsibilities of being a driver; where a driver's actions could kill people in an instant. But there are no grounds for appeal. They can fail drivers for not driving confidently enough. It's a big money machine for the driving schools.

I first worked for an agency, but found out very quickly from other drivers that you lose massive amounts of money in agency fees. A typical hourly wage is £12 an hour, but the agency charges the company between £20-25 an hour - they make huge profits stealing drivers' wages.

It's not just the pay that is bad, but the huge amount of stress, responsibility and liability that's put on drivers. You can lose your job for minor incidents, or be made to pay for damage: damaging a wing-mirror on a country road, for example.

Bosses' pressure

Bosses also apply time pressure on drivers. If you're not quick enough, don't take the most direct route, or can't find the location, it just adds to the pressure. Being a driver needs concentration for every single second of the working day, it is absolutely exhausting.

The driving hours regulations are an absolute piss-take, lots of companies know ways around them. I have heard stories of companies that only pay drivers for deliveries made, because they don't want to pay for waiting time. They ask drivers to turn off their 'tacho' device, which records everything the driver does, including the rest times while drivers are waiting. But this is still work, the driver is still in the lorry! This can mean that drivers can do over 70 hours a week, but the maximum by law is 45 hours a week.

For female drivers the facilities are an absolute nightmare, there are no hygiene facilities. I have spoken to a number of women drivers who have had to quit because they had constant bladder infections after going without access to toilets.

The huge crisis that is now unfolding is because bosses and the government have neglected lorry drivers and the industry for decades. There are problems with every aspect of the industry. In my experience, lorry drivers are relatively unorganised and not in trade unions. Many workers are sceptical of the unions and their ability to be able to organise and improve things. One of the challenges is that workers are often isolated - working for agencies or self-employed. I think the unions have to step up, and find a way to meet the drivers. They need to go to places where the drivers are - services stations and distribution centres.

Without trade union organisation employers are not held accountable to the law. Government cuts mean that the DVLA is short-staffed and unable to enforce the law. In five years of driving, I was never stopped by officers and subjected to checks.

Drivers' pay has to increase, and the industry should be made to pay for driver recruitment and training. There needs to be a major investment in training centres, and major improvements in hygiene facilities and overnight stations. These facilities need to be free and publicly owned to give drivers safe, decent places to rest. It should be the industry bosses, who have been making huge profits, that should be made to pay for it.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 29 September 2021:

What we think

Starmer consolidates post-Corbyn Blairite transformation of Labour


German election: A change of capitalist government, but disaster for Die Linke

People's budgets

Save our services


End profit-fuelled crisis

NHS workers reject 3% pay insult

Driver shortages - a view from the inside

News in brief

Black history month

Black history month and its relevance today

Climate change

CWI livestream rally report

Workplace news

NEU deputy general secretary election

Corby and Burton Latimer Weetabix engineers strike

Fightback to save Birmingham GKN jobs!

Flexibility to suit workers not the bosses

College workers walk out in pay dispute


London tenants v greedy contractors

Bromsgrove protest for NHS fair pay

Sabina Nessa vigil: End violence against women

Youth and Students

Join the fight for our future

Sunak's student special

More market chaos: York students given digs in Hull

Lots of sign-ups for Socialist Students at freshers

Youth climate protests are back


Home   |   The Socialist 29 September 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleJust Eat strike spreads and forces concessions

triangleJust Eat couriers drive chief exec out of town as strike spreads

triangleCoventry bins: all-out against strike-breaking Labour council

triangleWorksop Wincanton logistics workers begin ninth week of strike action

triangleSheffield Just Eat strikers step up action and hold mass rally: Over 100 trade unionists and students in Sheffield rallied in support of the Just Eat delivery drivers on their 31st day of targeted strike action against company pay cuts. Photo by Alistair Tice


triangleTV review: This is Going to Hurt

triangleJust Eat couriers continue action to fight pay cut

triangleUniversity workers continue strike against bosses' attacks

triangleTube workers strike in defence of pay, pensions and conditions


triangle"If we don't fight, we won't win!"

triangleCovid: Fight for full sick pay

triangleTory stealth taxes burden 'packhorse generation'


triangleFor workers' unity against war in Ukraine

triangleWorkers and students unite and fight


triangleSurrey: Unions and campaigns say stand as an anti-cuts candidate

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Restore Cardiff's slashed services



Just Eat couriers continue action to fight pay cut



University workers continue strike against bosses' attacks



Tube workers strike in defence of pay, pensions and conditions



Workers and students unite and fight



Fighting fees and marketisation after 2 March student walkout



Brighton Green and Labour cuts - workers and communities fight back



Surrey: Unions and campaigns say stand as an anti-cuts candidate



Newham City Farm - closed with no consultation



London Socialist Party women's meeting



1 March: Socialist Party new website launch



Coventry bin strikers lobby strike-breaking Labour council



Scunny scaffs action forces bosses to the table



Usdaw: 'Reinstate Max' week of action



Trade union support for standing anti-cuts election candidates

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

August 2022

July 2022

June 2022

May 2022

April 2022

March 2022

February 2022

January 2022