Shortage of UK truck drivers complicates RDF export to Europe

Road haulage in the UK is under immense pressure with the current shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers (HGV). This crisis affects the waste industry in particular and will have repercussions for the European EfW sector in the coming burning season.

By James Crouch, Logistics Manager UK

A current shortage and increased demand for drivers in the UK is leading to huge challenges for hauliers, which are unable to source the drivers needed to run their fleets. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) in the UK estimates a present shortfall of as many as 100,000 HGV drivers across the nation.

The issue regarding the lack of UK drivers is complex. The main reason is an aging population of drivers, but BREXIT is also creating issues regarding foreign drivers permits. In addition, COVID has had an impact with driver training and testing being heavily hindered. This is an issue which the industry has suffered with for some time, and the impact of this problem will most likely continue to be felt for some years to come.

The situation is in some industries causing a panic, and the competition to obtain road transport services is increasing. Reports are showing that drivers are constantly being offered incentives such as big sign-on fees and retention payments in order to take on transport assignments. Within retail and manufacturing, some businesses are at present offering to almost double driver salaries to secure their own logistics.

Road and sea transport challenges

Being one of the lowest paying and least attractive markets for hauliers, the waste industry already suffers from the repercussions of the driver shortage. The most obvious is the growing challenge of transporting RDF volumes to recovery facilities both within and outside of the UK.

Hence, most logistics solutions are impacted whether it be direct trailer deliveries, bulk vessels, containers, barges, or rail solutions. In addition, the logistics costs have increased by approx.10 percent this year and are likely to continue to rise due to the current situation.

The shipping capacity for RDF from the UK has so far been sufficient and not a challenge for the recycling and energy recovery industries. However, the rising oil prices are causing fuel costs to increase also, adding further pressure on the industry.

Affects the export market

With a total of 1,63 million tonnes of RDF/SRF exported from England in the last 12 registered months (June 2021-22, Footprint Services), the UK is still the most important RDF market for many European recovery facilities. As we are heading into the main burning season, the current transport situation is likely to cause a big challenge not only for the waste producers, but also for many overseas companies sourcing material from the UK market.

The Government is introducing packages, and measures to support the road haulage industry, but there is no evident quick fix to the problem. For resource management companies such as Geminor, the challenge will be to facilitate as efficient and cost-effective export as possible and find alternative RDF streams to support a declining UK export.

Nevertheless, recovery facilities across Europe must prepare for a more unpredictable season both in terms of volumes, delivery, and market pricing.

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