In 2015, The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) carried out an opinion survey looking at the driver shortage crisis. Seven years later, after numerous member requests, it sought to review this matter again by launching a new survey.
The purpose of the survey was to gauge the opinions of industry members about the current driver shortage in both the movement of passengers and the movement of goods, through the CILT(UK) benchmarking clubs LogMark and BusMark.
The aim of this report is to establish a series of recommendations to fleet operators, industry and government, by examining the data and comparing it to the last report from 2015.
The lack of lorry drivers has been a problem for many years with younger generations avoiding the occupation due to the industry image and a lack of careers guidance, towards the transport sector, from schools.
73% said that the industry image was something that both the government and the industry should focus on as a top priority. In addition, 64% of those moving goods are currently experiencing issues with driver shortage, with the average age of drivers now over 50 years of age.
As a result the logistics industry is having a hard time finding new drivers.
The report highlights that there has been an increase in shortage within every part of the UK. Areas including the North East, Yorkshire & Humber, East of England and Scotland have, in some cases, more than doubled since 2015.
HGV work can be difficult. The job can include long/unsociable hours (this is has the biggest increase as an issue within this year’s report), with mental health challenges coming from isolation and loneliness.
It is also well documented that roadside facilities and depots can be extremely poor, with 45% saying that this is a big issue.
In addition, there is also the pressure of the job with drivers having a lot of responsibility to pass health checks, CPCs (which need to be retained) and licences. From a young person’s point of view, a role in retail or an office environment may be more appealing. This has also reflected in the retention of drivers, with the highest staff turnover in goods movement being 25%.
Mark Bentley, Senior Lecturer in Supply Chain Management at Anglia Ruskin University, says: “There is also an undercurrent of dissatisfaction of drivers in how they are treated (i.e. spoken to and interacted with) by Traffic Office staff. There are instances of where agency drivers, in particular, avoid working for some companies where they are not treated with respect in their interaction with Traffic Office operations. Training of Transport Office staff and demanding a more customer approach for driver interactions is something that needs to be considered.”
A further concern is that 64% of goods movers have been unable to cover driving work in the past year.
With the ever-increasing demand of next-day and even same-day deliveries, this will undoubtedly raise the cost of delivery services even further.
While many agree that the work life balance is a key issue, others have stated that there are challenges with age restrictions and because of this it is a secondary career choice.
92% of participants stated that the government are not doing anywhere near enough to deal with the driver shortage issue. 51% said that there should be more opportunity for engagement with government bodies, 67% said that there should be improved funding and 73% said that the government should be looking at improving the image of the industry. Equally, 73% also said that the industry itself should work on improving the image. Perhaps this should be done in a collaborative way.
71% of participants believe that the industry should improve its terms and conditions.
Regarding this, Bentley said: “Terms and conditions are noted in the report as continuing to be an issue. In employment terms these are referred to as ‘hygiene factors’ and are imperative to recruiting and retaining employees. There are still a number of employers who are not seriously engaged with such issues. I appreciate it is extremely tough economically in running road haulage operations, but there can be no compromise in not paying a good rate of pay and providing good terms and conditions.”
The ongoing issue, and the potential for negative business impact, remains of great concern to those moving goods. In question 16 we can see that there has been minimal change with most saying that their concern was on a level of 7-8 out of 10. However, those who are very worried have increased by 50%.
The CILT’s interpretation of the survey results is as follows:
From the report, we can see that the situation is certainly not improving, so what can be done? During our report review meeting, a number of ideas were suggested with many agreeing that the industry image needs to change. The industry needs to look at this internally by working with schools/colleges to promote the industry. Many participants get involved with careers fairs and hold open days.
Industry supporters, like CILT(UK), could do more by offering more careers advice within schools and colleges, promoting the benefits of the industry and facilitating working groups with government, academia and industry leaders.
Another option is to work closer with MoD and their leavers. The survey results show that only 39% of participants do this and the MoD staff are trained to a high level in many areas.
Organisations, such as the British Forces Resettlement Services (BFRS) and Veterans into Logistics, offer direct links to ex-forces staff and companies should consider engaging with them to promote roles that may be available.
Bentley said: “These solutions are within the current remit of operators themselves. Funding, as an example, is already available through subsidies for apprenticeships (95% for non-levy organisations) along with Bootcamp funding from the government.”
We see staff engagement, advertising and top of the list, pay, as the most popular methods of seeking and retaining drivers. Appointment of European drivers has reduced greatly since Brexit and presents a compelling case to seek special exemptions across the transport sector, especially as the number of unemployed people per vacancy has fallen to a record low of 0.9, so more positions available within UK PLC than there are available people.
Competition for recruits with other industries is fierce, and some operators are showing greater flexibility in assessing applicants’ driver licence points on a case-by-case basis.
Across BusMark and LogMark, over 60% are not actively seeking to engage MOD service leavers. Is this, in part, because operators don’t know how to engage with the military, or organisations that seek to find leavers employment post-service? We also find that just 30.5% of Passenger respondents are currently recruiting trainee drivers, compared to 46.5% of Freight participants.
The report finds that the main reasons for Passenger and Freight driver shortages, Brexit aside, are unsociable hours, poor industry image, long hours, sub-standard facilities and poor wages. If these factors, as well as the ‘other’ responses, show the reality of professional driving, does this explain why the shortage may be a generation issue, who require a different work/life balance than in days gone by? If it’s even just their perception of a professional driving career, then many potential recruits are not giving the industry a second thought as it stands.
Up from 2015’s 89%, today 92% of respondents believe that Government isn’t doing enough to help. Whilst the Government-backed Generation Logistics initiative seeks to promote careers in the Logistics sector, but bearing in mind the Bus & Coach driver plight, we are keen to see a similar initiative for Passenger Transport careers launched as soon as possible.
Members believe the best way to attract drivers is to improve industry image and, improve driver terms & conditions, particularly when compared to entering other occupations, such as Retail, where entrants do not undertake medicals and eye-sight tests.
Perceptions have to change, and professional driving should be seen as an aspirational, highly-responsible career of choice.
When we look at the final question on scale of worry, the only surprise here is that the most common level of 7-8 remains similar to 2015, rather than being at 9-10. The industry should be worried but not to despair, believing that a Busmark/Logmark working group should use this data to plan our future efforts, which we can all get behind, champion and engage with The Institute’s policy groups (Bus & Coach / Freight & Logistics), the General Public and Government.
In conclusion, this issue isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, but neither is the CILT, which would love to hear your feedback and further suggestions for improving this ongoing issue.