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FTA COLUMN

DRIVER NUMBERS IMPROVE, BUT BREXIT’S ON THE HORIZON

HeavyTorque Issue Four: FTA

DRIVER NUMBERS IMPROVE, BUT BREXIT’S ON THE HORIZON

IS THE LACK OF ROADSIDE FACILITIES PRESENTING A MAJOR BARRIER TO DRIVER RECRUITMENT?

Skills shortages across the logistics industry traditionally hit hardest in the run-up to Christmas when more goods need to be delivered and services are stretched. Firms look to agency staff to plug the gaps, but that’s not always possible in a climate where skilled workers are scarce. Our latest analysis of professional drivers paints an improving picture of the crisis that hit the industry a couple of years ago when HGV driver shortage numbers peaked at 60,000.

The number has dropped by more than a third due to a rise in employed truck drivers and increasing salaries, which average twice the rate of inflation through overtime and bonuses. However, the challenge for vehicle operators is far from over with only 530 unemployed drivers claiming benefit in August 2016, meaning there is no pool of qualified drivers on which employers can draw at peak times such as Christmas.

And uncertainty over Brexit is playing a part, as our deputy chief executive James Hookham explains: “The report highlights the industry’s reliance on EU nationals, with more than 30,000, 10% of the entire driver workforce, currently employed in the UK.

“The uncertainty about their employment rights and status once Britain leaves the EU is a major concern for businesses. We urge the Government to ensure its Brexit negotiations afford special status to logistics and allow for this employment to continue so that the industry is not hit by another driver shortage crisis.

“We also need better roadside facilities, especially if we are going to attract more women into the industry, and more help from Government with the cost of acquiring a vocational licence, which is often cited as a barrier to recruitment.”

The independent ‘Driver Shortage: issues and trends’ report, prepared for the FTA by RepGraph Ltd, calculates the shortfall between the number of registered HGVs and the number of qualified drivers is 34,567, back to the pre-driver crisis levels of 2012.

The report shows the average age of truck drivers has risen steadily over the past 15 years and currently stands at 47.9. But encouragingly the average age of newly qualified drivers is 34, meaning over half of those who took an HGV driving test last year were under the age of 35.

Only 1% of UK truck drivers are women, but they are still more likely to pass the LGV test than men.

The FTA will publish the report on a six-monthly basis to provide a clear bassline analysis of the state of the industry.

HTA Popup

Published in March 2018, this fantastic 220 page, A4 Landscape Yearbook, designed and published by HeavyTorque, reflects the continued growth, and achievements of the Heavy Transport Association (HTA). Printed full-colour throughout, this is a must-read for those with an interest in the heavy and specialist transportation sector – very much recognised as the ‘bible of the industry’.