DECEMBER 25TH MAY BE LESS THAN THREE MONTHS AWAY, YET INCREASING DEMAND FOR DRIVERS – FROM THE UPTURN IN THE UK ECONOMY – MAY REACH CRISIS POINT WITH ADDITIONAL CHRISTMAS DELIVERIES.
HOW DOES SANTA MANAGE?
The steady growth in consumer spending, with more people turning to online shopping, has inevitably put huge demands on the logistics industry. Driver shortage is a genuine problem facing freight operators, with a lack of available qualified drivers. In the past, fleet managers have turned to agencies for temporary drivers to meet peak demand periods such as Christmas. But an ageing driver population, with fewer young people in training, has created an industry crisis. The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) has certainly had an impact. Many drivers reaching the end of their careers opted to retire early or move to other driving work that does not require DCPC, rather than complete the training following the September 2014 deadline.
Regulations now mean all qualifying HGV drivers must complete 35 hours approved training and be in possession of a Driver Qualification Card (DQC) issued by DVLA. Most transport operators cover the cost of DCPC training for their permanent employees. This is not the case for freelance agency drivers, who must fund it themselves, on top of the licence acquisition fee – around £3,000. For many, the cost is prohibitive.
Sally Gilson, the Freight Transport Association’s skills policy development manager, said: “Christmas presents don’t arrive by magic. Everything ordered online or bought from shops, including all festive food and drink, is delivered every year by the logistics industry. “This huge spike in demand leads to heavy use of agency drivers, and FTA members are really worried that there just aren’t enough qualified drivers to go round. However, it’s not just a seasonal issue – our members recruiting for full-time positions struggle for applicants.” Concerns over this inability to deliver could push up wages, as fleet managers explore ways to entice qualified drivers.
Ms Gilson said: “When you look at the cost, coupled with insurance problems for young people, it’s no wonder would-be drivers are not coming forward. FTA is pushing for vocational training to a loan system, the same as university students. If we are going to help the skills-shortage, government must not under-value vocational training.”
The FTA has been a leading provider of quality training to its members. It continues to identify the most practical, efficient and cost-effective way to manage future Driver CPC programmes, by providing training solutions to suit individual business requirements and driver training needs.
The Driver CPC is for LGV and PCV drivers who drive professionally throughout the UK. It has been developed as a requirement of the EU Directive 2003/59, which is designed to improve the knowledge and skills of professional LGV and PCV drivers throughout their working life. There are two parts to the legislation:
• The Initial Qualification must be achieved by new LGV and PCV drivers along with their vocational licence to enable them to use their licence professionally
• Periodic training, consisting of 35 hours of training every 5 years, must be attended by all professional drivers
USE OF LONGER SEMI-TRAILERS
Figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) after the first two years of its Longer Semi-Trailer Trial have been welcomed by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) as a positive step towards reducing HGV miles and making carbon savings. The DfT research project, which was launched in 2012, aims to evaluate whether use of longer semi-trailers for articulated goods vehicles will bring about anticipated environmental and economic benefits.
Semi-trailers of 14.6m and 15.65m in length involved in the trial are predicted to save more than 3,000 tonnes of CO2 and deliver £33m of economic benefit over a 10 year period – and the early results are encouraging. The DfT annual report for 2014, released at the end of July, says on average operators are saving one journey in 22 as a result of using longer semi-trailers. At the top of the range, some are even saving one in nine. The figures show that between 4.2 and 5.2 million vehicle kilometres have been saved from the operation of longer semi-trailers since 2012, leading to lower CO2 emissions.
Empty running for longer semi-trailers was only about 19%, compared with a figure of around 29% for the general articulated HGV data; information submitted by operators taking part in the trial showed that safety was not compromised. The report concludes there is ‘no immediate concern’ the trailers cause increased rates of injury: there were no reported incidents resulting in serious injury or fatality.
Andy Mair, FTA’s head of engineering, said: “The incident data submitted under the requirements of the trial shows that these trailers are being operated safely and responsibly. This is highlighted in the report. “FTA is a supporter of the use of longer semi-trailers. They provide significant environmental and efficiency benefits. The report clearly shows how operators in the trial are making significant efficiency improvements, reducing HGV miles and demonstrating carbon savings by using longer semi-trailers on freight operations suited to their use.”
The trial permits up to 1,800 trailers, in the two length categories, to be registered, operating within the UK domestic weight limit of 44 tonnes for six-axle vehicles. Participation is voluntary, and at the operator’s own risk. It is scheduled to last for a maximum of 10 years so they can recover the cost of their investment.
Those taking part in the trial must collect data and submit it regularly to the DfT’s independent trial evaluators. Operators must apply to the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) for a Vehicle Special Order (VSO) to use the semi-trailers commercially. Running them without a VSO in Great Britain is illegal and they cannot be taken out of the country.
The trial applies only to roads in Great Britain. Operators wanting to go to Northern Ireland in a longer semi-trailer must obtain an additional VSO from the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DOENI).
DfT hopes to involve more participants in the trial by the end of 2015 since the full allocation of 1,800 trailers has not yet been taken up.