Thursday, November 27, 2014

An Established Maritime Freight Voice Joins Debate on Road Haulage Driver Shortage

John Good Boss Asks Why Haven't the Government Acted As Yet?
Shipping News Feature

UK – A recurring theme of late has been the concern over a shortage of drivers for the UK’s delivery sector. Whilst van drivers are relatively easy to employ, since September any goods vehicle of 7.5 tonne gross or above requires driver holding a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) together with the correct licence. In recent articles we have pointed out how organisations such as the British International Freight Association (BIFA) are concerned about the lack of youngsters entering the profession, and now other voices are joining the debate.

Now the boss of one of Britain’s oldest established maritime companies has spoken out asking why the government has been so slow to react to calls to reinvigorate this part of the logistics industry which forms the arteries and capillaries through which almost everything we use in our daily lives flows. Alan Platt, Managing Director of John Good Shipping says:

“Within the John Good Group we run around 30 of our own trucks, supplemented by a fleet of owner drivers and sub-contract hauliers, making over 100 container deliveries each day. But recruiting drivers is increasingly tough. There’s very much a driver shortage and an ageing workforce. The only way of addressing it is to simply get younger people into the industry and get them interested in it. It’s understandable to a degree. Young people work to live, they often don’t want unsociable hours and to be away from home for two or three nights a week.

“New training is being introduced for hauliers which has driven many older ones across the country to exit the industry early rather than undergo the training. Coupled with an increasing number of migrants returning to their home countries, it means driver numbers are starting to dwindle. People are asking themselves whether they need to do the new training if they are close to retirement.

“We need to make the industry more attractive, there is the danger that the concept of driving as a profession has almost disappeared and has become simply a job. The difficulty from a business perspective is that margins remain squeezed in the supply chain and that filters down to the haulage industry. In an ideal world, increased margins would enable us to pass this onto our drivers who do an exceptional job for us. But the reality is, unless we get help from the government and our industry bodies, we remain stuck in a cycle that is difficult to eradicate.

“If the UK haulage sector is to stand any chance of remaining competitive, the government must make a commitment to fund vocational licences for new drivers. The real cost of an LGV licence at £4-5,000 (RHA figures) per individual is, of course, a major barrier to enter the industry. If training grants do not become available then the road haulage industry will start to die.

“It’s hard to understand why a government would let an industry struggle that is judged as a barometer of the economy. Without drivers the economy would come to a standstill yet we are still waiting for training grants almost a year after we predicted this would happen after the CPC for drivers became a requirement.”

The John Good MD is concerned how the industry can to continue to effectively service its clients and Alan Platt points out that he believes the road freight lobby may finally being listened to on this matter. Just last week, with the final Autumn Statement of the current Parliament due to be read out by George Osborne in a few days from now, RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett said:

“The driver shortage is fast becoming the biggest issue that the road haulage industry has ever had to cope with. There is a 45,000 driver shortage now, 35,000 drivers due to retire within the next year and only 17,000 drivers joining the industry. The average age of a driver is 57, and less than 5% of the industry is under 25. If the UK haulage sector is to stand any chance of remaining competitive with the rest of Europe, the Chancellor must make a commitment in his Autumn Statement to fund vocational licences for new drivers.

“If something isn't done immediately there could be a negative impact on the UK's economy and empty shelves at Christmas. Funding for the road haulage industry is funding for growth. The UK economy is, for a massive part, reliant on road haulage. Without drivers, the economy will come to a standstill.”