HGV Driver

Why the UK is struggling with driver shortages

Monday, October 24, 2022 - 07:51
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The UK economy is a bit of a mess. Rising food prices have pushed inflation to a 40-year high. The economy is struggling with soaring energy costs. Adding fuel to the fire is an acute shortage of truck drivers that are putting the already burdened supply chain under more pressure. According to a report, there’s a shortfall of nearly 76,000 drivers in the UK.

A Logistics UK report states that the number of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) drivers fell by 30,300 in the first quarter of this year. The dwindling driver numbers are a major concern for shippers and carriers with the holiday season close on the heels. Experts say that there are several reasons behind the nose diving driver numbers.

HGV DriverWhat’s behind the decline in qualified drivers?

Aging Workforce

As per the Office of National Statistics, the average age of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers in the UK is 48. Forty-seven percent of truck drivers in the UK are over 50 years old. The number of HGV driver tests dropped by a big margin during the pandemic making recruitment of new drivers extremely difficult. With the rate of retirement far exceeding the rate of recruitment, a dip in the number of drivers was bound to happen.

Demanding Work

Despite the increase in wages, driving trucks remains an unattractive job. Long and demanding hours, less family time, unhealthy lifestyles, and lack of clean facilities at depots have contributed to many drivers calling it quits.

Recently, lorry drivers in the UK were forced to sleep in lay-bys due to a shortage of parking spaces. Logistics UK head of policy Michelle Gardener conceded that UK’s drivers “are woefully under-catered for when it comes to accessing safe and secure overnight parking areas” and that it’s been one of the primary reasons behind the logistics industry not being able to retain experienced drivers.

Congested ports and long wait times

Supply chain snarls have led to congestion across some of the biggest ports in the UK. This has ultimately led to long lines of trucks waiting to load or unload shipments. Long waiting times are another source of frustration for truck drivers who would rather be driving on the highways than wasting their time on the crammed docks.

What trucking companies can do to retain drivers

Better pay

Driver wages have risen across the UK. The rise in salaries is more a reflection of the uneven level of driver demand and supply rather than the concerted effort by companies to make the trucking industry more attractive for drivers.

driver shortageIn a recently published report titled ‘Road freight supply chain’, House of Commons Committee members have expressed concern, saying that in the long run, it’s not clear that the increase in driver wages will be sustained. The same report has experts pointing out that companies “retained their drivers have not necessarily been the highest payers [but those with] a better relationship with their drivers.”

Invest in Training Sessions

Trucking companies must invest in training sessions to improve the skills of their drivers. Driving not only takes a physical toll on the body but long hours on the road also affects the mental health of drivers. Drivers spend most of their time away from their friends and family which adds to more stress. Enterprises must train drivers on how to manage emotional stress by focusing on mental wellness. A healthy and happy workforce is usually also a more productive workforce.

Listen to Truckers

Truckers shouldn’t be treated as resources. There’s a human behind the steering wheel, trying to do their job, in an extremely stressful environment. Trucking companies must listen to their drivers. They must constantly ask for feedback on how they can improve the working conditions of their employees.

Implementing rewards programme

Trucking companies must implement rewards programs to retain experienced drivers. The drivers must not only be selected based on completing on-time deliveries, other parameters like driving safely, speeding, and seat belt usage must be factored in as well.

Apprenticeship programs

Trucking companies can run driver apprenticeship programs to attract talent. BCA Automotive – UK’s biggest transporting company – launched an LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) apprenticeship where candidates who want to build a career in driving trucks can gain more knowledge about the industry. Gist started a similar program where it used its in-house driving academy to train prospective HGV drivers.

How today’s technology benefits truck drivers

Delivery management platforms enable trucking companies to create dynamic and optimized routes and make truck drivers more efficient. Using technology with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) can help drivers avoid potential delays and provide day-to-day operational clarity.

Fleet managers aware of real-time traffic and weather conditions can plan and optimize routes to avoid potential delays, contributing to better driver experiences.

Intelligent delivery management platforms can help manage driver fatigue by accounting for break time hours and fuel stops, helping trucking companies comply with country-specific labor law restrictions, and improving driver experiences.

In Conclusion

The supply chain depends upon drivers as the backbone of freight movement worldwide. The key to solving driver shortages lies not only in increasing the number of drivers but also taking measures to increase the utilization of current drivers for greater logistics efficiency. Using AI and machine learning (ML) technology solutions creates better driver experiences.

Author: Mike Elton, Service Delivery Director of UK & Europe at FarEye