Monday, February 16, 2015

Road Haulage Group to Meet Treasury Officials Over HGV Freight Driver Shortage

Track Record of Support However Indicates Government Incompetence When it Comes to Training Schemes
Shipping News Feature

UK – Following a meeting earlier this month between executives from the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, when the subject of the current HGV driver shortage was raised, together with other matters, it seems it is now the turn of the Road Haulage Association (RHA). Following demands from the RHA, Treasury officials have offered an invitation to a meeting on Friday 20 February to explore the problems inherent in having the average age of UK HGV drivers now at 53 years with 13% over 60 and only around 2% under 25*. RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said:

“This is a major milestone for the Association and for the industry as a whole. UK haulage operators are responsible for the efficient and cost effective movement of 85% of all goods transported. Their job is, quite literally, to move the economy. However, that can only be achieved with a strong and thriving driver workforce.

“We are currently 40,000 drivers short. 45,000 are due to retire in the next two years, not including those who have to leave for medical reasons or who have found another job but only 17,000 are entering the industry annually. Do the maths, this has become an untenable situation. At a time of economic recovery, the Chancellor now presides over the future of the UK haulage industry.”

The FTA’s Industry Summit - ‘Solving the Driver Crisis’ at Coventry's Ricoh Stadium on Thursday 12 March has proved so popular it is now oversubscribed with a waiting list in place, an indicator of how seriously those within the industry are taking the situation.

One of the problems faced in the UK is the perception of the actual job, both from outside the industry and indeed within. Many employers were keen to employ drivers from other EU countries when this situation last arose, not always with satisfactory outcomes with poorly qualified drivers holding questionable qualifications. In countries where driving is regarded as a vocation or true profession, the bar is set quite high in terms of training and examination, therefore the rewards tend to be comparative.

Pay for British drivers varies greatly, as do the standards of professionalism within UK haulage companies, a situation gradually changing as better regulation and inspection weeds out the less conscientious operators. As the driver shortage bites, so wages for the average driver will inevitably rise, simple supply and demand. Those coming into the industry will only stay the course of harder theory tests and more regulation knowledge requirements if the reward at the end is a job worth doing, no matter how much pressure the RHA puts on the government to assist with better training programmes.

* Skills for Logistics figures before it closed down in January 2015, ironically not the best indicator for future assistance as it was a government sponsored initiative, as was the National Skills Academy Logistics which also failed in 2013 when the Skills Funding Agency withdrew funding. A report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) in October 2014 ‘Understanding skills and performance challenges in the logistics sector’ pointed out the lamentable state of training in the UK (22nd in the table for education and training) then went on to say ‘Looking forward, it is anticipated that the proportion of workers employed in these groups [LGV, van and forklift drivers], will decline’ going on to say ‘more managers, professionals and associate professionals’ will be required’. The government might wish to listen to audience comments at the forthcoming FTA Summit.