Over recent weeks, Drive Personnel has seen sustained pressure on supply chains across the country and worldwide resulting from the reopening of non-essential retail. A combination of poor pay and conditions and Brexit, and longstanding HGV driver shortages have come to a head this summer, with the threat of empty supermarket shelves causing logistics companies, driver agencies, and retailers to worry about the long-term damage to the transport industry.
As an established driver agency in Southampton, Drive Personnel has seen the consequences of these shortages first-hand over the last year. Based on a recent survey of its members, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that there is a shortage of over 100,000 drivers in the UK across all driver categories. Pre-pandemic, the estimated shortage was 60,000 drivers.
What is Causing the Driver Shortage?
In recent years, we have seen new Brexit legislation causing workers from Eastern Europe to cease living and working in the UK. This has caused a significant reduction in EU net migration, specifically in response to the UK’s immigration policy changes post-Brexit. Among these migrants are hard-working logistics personnel who are no longer able to lend their skills to the UK supply chain, which has attributed to the steady decline of HGV drivers nationwide.
Statistics from the Freight Transport Association’s Logistics Skills Report 2019 have shown that since Brexit plans were announced in 2017, the reduction in EU drivers has contributed to a 43% rise in transport and storage industry job vacancies. Head of Skills Campaign at FTA Sally Gilson commented:
“The logistics sector is facing serious challenges in the recruitment and retention of labour… Businesses within the logistics sector are reliant on access to EU workers to help fill job vacancies; these workers currently constitute 13% of the entire logistics workforce.
The logistics sector is the lifeblood of the nation’s economy… without adequate levels of staff, operations will come crashing to a halt and businesses will cease trading.”
Pay & Conditions
A long standing issue in the sector, Brexit and increased pressure from COVID has once again highlighted this issue. Many companies have responded by offered ‘golden hello’ payments for drivers, however we firmly believe that the real issue here is about significant increases in actual pay, improved working hours, greater recognition for the vital part that drivers play in the economy, better and cheaper rest areas, to name just a few for starters.
To combat this increase in demand, the UK government has temporarily relaxed drivers’ hours legislation across all road haulage sectors to help hauliers manage supply chain pressures. Although this may be a short-term solution, the RHA are concerned that asking an industry which is already stretched to the limit to work longer hours with shorter rest periods is a recipe for disaster.
With the average age of HGV drivers in the UK at 48 years old, 47% of drivers over the age of 50, and only 1% of drivers under the age of 25, logistics is often viewed by the public as an aging industry. Fewer younger people are being encouraged by government schemes and schools to work in transport, and HGV drivers are beginning to retire without being replaced by newly qualified workers. The trucking industry is also known to be hugely male-dominated, with a 2018 FTA Skills Shortage Report indicating that 86% of the logistics industry in the UK is represented by male workers.
Progress has been made through various RHA campaigns to break stereotypes and increase the diversity of the logistics industry, but there is certainly a long way to go.
How is the UK Affected?
With fewer qualified drivers on the road to deal with increased demands, the UK runs the risk of facing empty supermarket shelves and failed deliveries of essential items such as food and medicine. Industries such as farming, construction and manufacturing rely heavily on precise collection times from logistics companies, but with growing supply chain pressures, late collections and failed deliveries are becoming more and more common. As a result of this, rates for freight delivery are rising to an unsustainable level, meaning that costs will have to be passed onto customers to help support the supply chain.
What is the Solution?
To combat these issues, the RHA has published a 12-point plan to tackle driver shortages and take the pressure off of the logistics industry to fulfill unrealistic demands. The 12-point plan comprises the following:
• Include HGV drivers on Government’s Skilled Worker Shortage Occupation List
• Coronavirus recovery – a Seasonal Visa Scheme for qualified HGV drivers
• Continued priority driving tests for HGV drivers
• Establish a ‘Return to HGV Driving’ scheme
• Better promotion of the job and the sector as a whole
• Apprenticeship funding gap for C+E drivers in England and Wales
• Apprenticeships for Class C drivers
• A SME-focussed HGV driver training scheme HGV independent training loan scheme
• An independent HGV independent training loan scheme
• Other training schemes – DWP pilots/Road to Logistics
• Increase productivity of the road network
• Improve site productivity and the treatment of drivers at collection and delivery points
In an open letter to the government, the RHA expressed the following:
“The respect for drivers and the vital skilled contribution they make for society needs to be better recognised. We already see that post Covid some drivers are not wanting to go back to the way they worked. Congestion, hostility towards drivers and lorries, conditions on the road, treatment at collection sites, narrow delivery slots with fines, hours, work-life balance are all factors the require improvement.”
At Drive Personnel, we are doing our best to manage the nationwide driver shortage by offering discounted training opportunities, giving newly qualified drivers the chance to increase their earning potential and develop their career, and raising awareness of the problems that the logistics industry faces. Our team truly believe that drivers and logistics workers are the backbone of this country, and we are dedicated to helping our customers grow by providing vital logistics support.
For more information about joining our team of drivers, complete our contact form today, or if your business is in need of HGV driver support, give our friendly team a call today on 023 8069 5600