Missing items on the shelf of your supermarket fuelled by the driver shortage is a topic which has been covered thoroughly by our industry experts in the past 12 months. This is a topic that has not only a large impact on the nature of work that I complete on a day-to-day basis but the lives we all lead.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that there is now a shortage of more than 40,000 qualified drivers in the UK and upwards of 16,000 fewer EU nationals working as full-time drivers. Brexit, the value of the pound, changes in HMRC legislation and COVID have all had a part to play in what seems to be the perfect storm.
An aspect which is covered less by the media and industry experts seen on our TV screens is lack of support from the Driver Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) in turning around new applications from drivers, with one prospective driver waiting 9 weeks to receive a provisional licence. One of our major clients with over 9000 vehicles in the UK is only able to get 1 LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) test place a week from the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and has a current back log of 264 applicants ready to take their tests. Whilst the DVLA are dealing with a bottleneck of applications, drivers are still required to complete medicals which the employer is not required to pay for to ensure that they are fit to operate these vehicles.
On top of this, drivers are responsible for the safety and condition of the vehicle that they drive and they can pick up roadside prohibitions which can total more than £2500 for defective vehicles or offenses related to their working hours. Drivers subject to these working hour regulations must complete 35 hours of approved training every 5 years, for which again the employer is not required to pay. All these facts can play an important part in a person’s choice to become a professional driver. After hearing that, would you want to become a professional driver?
The industry is heavily dominated by males, totalling up to 95% of all drivers, the days are long and in many cases they are alone in the cab. This combined with the day-to-day stresses of air pollution, e-scooters and congestion can lead to a knock-on effect for the driver’s mental health.
The solution to this is not easy, but in my opinion, more must be taught in schools and colleges regarding logistics. More women should be encouraged to join the industry by removing the stigma that only men drive professionally. Training, development, and medicals should be paid for by the employer and more resources should be given to the people keeping our roads safe for all of us and, last but not least, better facilities for eating and overnight parking should be made available.
John Cowdell is a Junior Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants (WCoMC).