Demand for HGV drivers is set to soar dramatically over the next four years due to the growth in online retail and place pressure on attempts by firms to reach net zero admissions, according to research.
Experts at real estate adviser Colliers have said the continued rise in e-commerce will create an additional 38,885 extra HGV round trips per day by 2025.
It comes amid a current shortage of around 85,000 HGV drivers in the UK and increased expectations from investors for firms to reduce their emissions.
Walter Boettcher, the firm’s head of research and economics in the UK, said the increased swing towards online sales – which has been accelerated by the pandemic – could have an environmental impact.
“The distribution model in place for the growing volume of e-commerce is not without its problems,” he said.
“One being that it has a substantial environmental footprint that may equal, if not exceed, that of traditional bricks and mortar retailing.
“Furthermore, the anticipated large-scale repurposing of bricks and mortar retail assets into other uses could unwittingly exacerbate the problem and act to undermine the path to net zero.”
The report also highlights a substantial need for more warehouse and logistics space to cope with this demand.
An extra 54.5 million square feet of industrial logistics space, including warehouses, would be needed by 2025 to satisfy an existing shortfall in capacity and meet growth expectations.
The forecasts are predicated on an expected growth in consumerism, with retail spending rapidly growing in recent years.
In 2010, UK retail sales amounted to £325 billion, rising to £438 billion in 2020, and are expected to reach £651 billion by 2030, according to Oxford Economics forecasts.
David Fox, co-head of Colliers’ retail agency, said: “Do we curb consumerism for the greater good of the environment? Well, we can’t stop the customer from gravitating towards a seamless shopping experience, whether this is online, omni-channel or bricks and mortar.
“E-commerce is here to stay but retailers need to adjust by providing the best experience for societal expectations whilst guiding customers towards a sustainable outcome.
“We must get better at communicating the impact people’s consumer choices has on our carbon footprint so that we can all make more informed decisions that go beyond the most convenient or cost-effective.”