Eighteen councils hit by bin collection delays due to driver shortage

Lorry driver shortage causes bin chaos: EIGHTEEN councils confirm delays to rubbish collections as they blame lack of workers available to drive refuse trucks

  • The delays are primarily affecting collections of garden waste
  • Some councils are also delaying recycling collections to prioritise general waste
  • Affected councils include three in Devon and others in West Midlands 

At least 18 councils across the UK are experiencing ongoing disruptions to their bin collection services due to driver shortages. 

The delays are primarily affecting collections of garden waste, according to the BBC.

But some councils are also delaying recycling collections so they can provide enough drivers to pick up Britons’ general waste. 

The delays are being caused in part by the lack of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers for bin lorries, along with the fact that many council staff are self-isolating after either contracting coronavirus or coming into contact with someone with the disease.

Britain is currently facing its own 100,000 shortfall of HGV drivers, which retail bosses have partly blamed on changes to migration rules post-Brexit and EU employees returning home.  

The Road Haulage Association said the total number of people in the UK with HGV licences this summer is 516,000. But the latest Department for Transport data shows 278,700 HGV drivers were employed in 2020, equivalent to 54 per cent of the total.  

At least 18 councils across the UK are experiencing ongoing disruptions to their bin collection services due to driver shortages

On Thursday, three councils in Devon wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel asking for the Government to grant temporary visas for European HGV drivers to ease the shortage.   

The 18 councils hit by bin collection delays

Derby City Council

Manchester City Council

Milton Keynes Council

South Gloucestershire Council

South Holland District Council

North Norfolk District Council

Cambridge County Council

South Cambridgeshire County Council

Rossendale Borough Council

Peterborough City Council

Torbay Council

Teignbridge District Council

North Devon Council

Stoke on Trent City Council

South Ribble Council

Dartford Council

Dundee City Council

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council


North Devon Council is trying to fill seven bin lorry driver vacancies, Torbay Council has eight vacancies and Teignbridge Council needs 10 drivers, the councillors said in their letter.   

Steve Darling, David Worden and Alistair Dewhirst added that it was proving ‘very challenging’ to fill the vacancies. 

The councillors asked for driver applications being handled by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA to be ‘fast tracked’.

They said there are five applications in Teignbridge which could be speeded up. 

Waste management firms including Biffa and Veolia told the BBC that they are ‘doing everything’ to cope with the shortage.   

Other councils suffering from shortages include the city councils in Derby and Manchester, along with others in Milton Keynes and Basingstoke.    

The shortage of drivers is also hitting the food industry. Earlier this week, Coca-Cola said a can shortage was being compounded by a shortfall of HGV drivers.

And pub chain Wetherspoon’s said it was suffering from a beer shortage. Fast food chains McDonald’s, KFC and Nando’s have all suffered similar supply chain issues in recent months. 

The latter firm had to close around a tenth of its outlets due to a chicken shortage caused in part by a lack of drivers. 

Britain has around 237,300 qualified drivers who are not yet on the roads, despite the shortfall of 100,000 workers.   

Industry experts have said better pay and improved working conditions are needed to lure them back.

They put the shortage largely down to Brexit and the pandemic, which led to 14,000 European drivers going home and just 600 of those returning.   

The delays are primarily affecting collections of garden waste. But some councils are also delaying recycling collections so they can provide enough drivers to pick up Britons’ general waste

Since last year, the industry has also seen large numbers of drivers retiring, while lockdown has hit the training of new drivers with 40,000 HGV driver tests cancelled.

The average age of a UK lorry driver is put at 56 to 57 and not enough young people have joined the industry due to its long hours, unattractive conditions and poor pay.

Drivers’ median hourly pay has risen 10 per cent since 2015 to £11.80 – below the 16 per cent average across other sectors, with new tax changes also not in their favour. 

Lorry drivers can only drive for nine hours each day, but many are away from home up to 15 hours a day – putting off many young people who do not want such hours.    

An HGV lorry driver takes his vehicle along the M4 motorway near Datchet, Berkshire, on July 8

Britain is just one of many European countries suffering from a driver shortfall. 

There are an estimated 400,000 vacancies across the continent.  

Research by logistics analysts Transport Intelligence found that Germany was missing between 45,000 and 60,000 HGV drivers last year. 

That number is increasing, with the International Road Transport Union warning of a 185,000 shortfall there by 2027.

France has also faced a similar crisis, with the country facing a shortage of around 43,000 drivers since 2019. 

The shortfall in Italy in 2019 was estimated to be around 15,000, Transport Intelligence said. 

Jose Gomez-Urquiza, chief executive of immigration agency Visa Solutions, told The Daily Express: ‘We’re living through the worst driver shortage that we’ve seen in recent history, by far.’   

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