“There has never been a more challenging time for the industry”
The driver shortage “crisis” isn’t a new thing. A key and long-standing issue in the Transport and Logistics industry, recently surfacing in the news at the moment because of the recent huge drop off of drivers due to COVID-19 and Brexit.
Brexit led to the loss of a big proportion of the workforce – like the pandemic, drivers are limited in their travel and work opportunities. Complications surrounding Brexit and COVID-19, only add to the already negative portrayal of the industry and the negative implications associated with drivers.
Diversity and Inclusivity
With such a pessimistic news presence and a stereotypical target audience – the story being told of the industry and its drivers isn’t exactly a positive one. The lack of gender, age, and racial diversity is one of the reasons that the industry is not appealing to more people. The stereotype of middle-aged white male drivers isn’t far from the truth – only 1.2% of HGV drivers are female, and less than 1% of drivers are under 25.
Inclusivity also plays a part in the negative associations with the industry, and the lack of a diverse workforce. For low-income and young people, it is quite unattainable to get a HGV license – they can cost from £1,000 up to £5,000, and the addition of progressing from an initial driving license, up to CLASS 1, is intense and difficult to complete during the pandemic. There is also only a 47.5% first time pass rate – not a positive statistic for learner drivers.
The pandemic has also led to many drivers returning to their country of origin, having issues with lockdown restrictions, or not being able to complete their HGV tests due to cancellations. A loss of over 30,000 test slots has ultimately led to a huge backlog of tests, worsening the already under-staffed industry. This will then also impact the already complicated career path for young aspiring drivers, as it’s not guaranteed.
Another issue stemming from the lack of young drivers, is the lack of Transport and Logistics education or inspiration in schools. Unlike other vocational courses, there is not much available for courses in this sector. Logistics apprenticeships are slowly becoming more readily available – but this is definitely an underrepresented career option.
What is obviously an industry issue, turns into a national and global issue, with a wide impact on the general supply chain. Inflation is a key concern at the moment; increasing rates for drivers, ultimately means the increase of supply prices. Drivers’ expectations are higher now, and getting the right staff at a critical time like this, does mean recognising that and offering competitive rates.
One of the main offputting aspects of becoming a driver, as well as possible low rates, is the service stations that are available to them. Working long shifts, sometimes staying in their vehicles, there is a big reliance on the driver services – which have been described as “hellholes” in the news. Sometimes it’s the issue of the lack of toilets, lorry theft, and general low standards.
Need For Action
Outlining the “crippling” effects of the HGV driver shortage, the RHA have published a few press releases – recently appealing to the Prime Minister and other government officials. The need for action is referenced, and the clear lack of support currently available. “There has never been a more challenging time for this industry…” RHA Chief Executive, Richard Burnett, expressed in their letter to the PM. The letter also contained signatures from a variety of industry professionals – CEOs and directors.
The key issues raised were: COVID-19, Brexit, test shortage and IR35 – referencing clear and succinct call to actions, and a plea for immediate solutions. The IR35 law came into action this year (after delays in 2020), and signalled the end of self-employment for a lot of drivers, if they were continuously working for the same client.
The industry news conveys the dire need for help, and the lack of government support. In reality, almost a third of UK drivers are over 55 and approaching retirement age, and the pressure is becoming overwhelming for clients and candidates in the industry.
There is so much that can be changed and improved in the Transport industry, which will lead to the increase of drivers and a more positive and innovative industry in general. At Aspion, we are aware of the struggles, and the possible solutions, and we don’t just recruit to solve a problem – we find the root cause of the problem.
The education of ourselves and our partners on the key industry concerns and the options that we have is key to us at Aspion. As professionals in our division, we are continuously growing as a business, and our knowledge. Attending industry-relevant seminars, working with key organisations and charities, expanding our client and candidate base… we cover all bases and strive to be the best we can be in relation to specialism.
Beverley Bell and The RHA are partnering with us to bring a free Transport & Logistics seminar on Wednesday 7th July – a great opportunity to explore how to cope with change in a post-covid world, looking at the impact of Brexit and other key issues.
We’re not just sitting on the sidelines, we are an integral part of the Transport and Logistics industry. Knowledge is power, and as experts in our division, with CPC qualifications – we stay constantly educated and involved in the key issues and news. Associated with the RHA, FTA, and Former Senior Traffic Commissioner, Beverley Bell, we are trusted suppliers of informed advice and competitive roles.
What Can We Do?
What can we do in this time of crisis?
- Link drivers and clients up with training centres
- Educate drivers about progressing from class 2 to 1 license
- Share expert industry knowledge
- Raise awareness of relevant issues
- Offer competitive rates and service
- Market the industry as an attractive, well-paid career path
- Educate clients on pay rates and how to attract drivers
- Treat drivers as a people and not just numbers, and as an essential key worker
- Candidate care – building relationships and valuing them
- Ensure a smooth, easy, transparent, and honest process
- Work with good operators