The driver shortage is the main challenge the transport industry is currently facing.
Before the pandemic, the UK road transport businesses employed approximately 600,000 HGV (heavyweight vehicles) drivers which included 60,000 from EU member states who were residing and working in the UK. Even with this, the shortage was estimated to be as high as 70,000.
Since then, many drivers have decided to return to their home countries due to the uncertainty of the future of their status in the UK.
Another issue represents the increasing number of retiring drivers. The average age of an HGV driver is 55, with less than 2% under the age of 25. Prolonged periods of inactivity have resulted in this aging workforce choosing to retire early or find employment in other less demanding sectors.
The complete shutdown of vocational driving tests throughout much of last year resulted in the loss of over 30,000 test slots. This prevented the industry from being able to train and recruit new drivers to replace those leaving.
Before Coronavirus, a typical year would see 72,000 candidates training to become HGV drivers with 40,000 succeedings. Last year only 15,000 completed the training successfully.
Across the UK, thousands of HGV’S are parked up because haulage businesses cannot find drivers to drive them. Lead times for deliveries have extended from an average of 24 hours to more than 80 hours and industry efficiencies are in freefall.
Regarding this issue, The Road Haulage Association and business leaders are meeting with Government next week to discuss and emphasize the critical situation of the industry.
Richard Burnett, the RHA chief executive has explained the critical situation the industry is now facing, and he said: “We must work collectively and towards a sustainable way to recruit and train a home-grown workforce so our reliance on foreign labour lessens over time.”
In regards to this matter, Ian Jarman from Owens Group, explained the importance of an urgent resolution, saying: “if it doesn’t improve in the coming months there could possibly be delivery shortages”.
Last week, RHA presented the Government a list of 12 steps to be taken to start working on the critical issue:
1. Coronavirus recovery – a seasonal visa scheme for qualified HGV drivers
2. Continued priority driving tests for HGV drivers
3. Establish a ‘Return to HGV Driving’ scheme
4. Better promotion of the job and the sector as a whole
5. Apprenticeship funding gap for C+E drivers in England and Wales
6. Apprenticeships for Class C drivers
7. An SME-focused HGV driver training scheme
8. An independent HGV independent training loan scheme
9. Other training schemes – DWP pilots/Road to Logistics
10. Increase productivity of the road network
11. Improve site productivity and the treatment of drivers at collection and delivery points
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