Driver shortages are creating a whole new problem for the UK freight and logistics sector.
The last year has been very difficult for most Freight and Logistics companies in both the UK and Ireland, with the perfect storm of the COVID 19 Pandemic and BREXIT presenting unprecedented challenges across the sector. But just as the economy emerges from lockdown and we start to get to grips with UK/EU customs realities, a whole new crisis is beginning to surface right across the UK transport industry. The lack of fully trained HGV drivers in the UK is now the biggest single issue impacting the sector, with the UK Road Haulage Association recently reporting a shortage of up to 100,000 drivers. Most companies are struggling to fill vacancies and driver retention is now crucial to maintain experience and service levels, with pay rates and working conditions under review throughout the industry.
What has caused this crisis?
The average age of HGV drivers in the UK continues to increase, currently standing at 56, with fewer young people entering the industry due to expensive HGV training and soaring or inaccessible insurance cover for younger drivers. HGV test facilities have also been closed for the past 9 months due to COVID, resulting in no new drivers entering the system. Brexit and COVID have both impacted the availability of European drivers to work in UK, a significant proportion of the driver workforce.
In addition, legislation is having a huge impact on the availability and the cost of agency labour, with rates increasing by 50%. Subcontracting has also become difficult due to a lack of supply as many providers have downsized. Another big part of the problem is Europe and Brexit, with International hauliers trying to avoid the UK due to delays and complications caused by new systems and process brought on by new customs regulations, resulting in a far smaller pool of drivers to choose from.
Also, as the economy comes out of lock down across Europe, there is major pressure on the wider logistics industry resulting in drivers staying in their own home country, where pay and reward have improved to meet with domestic demand. All this has resulted in vehicles in the UK being parked-up, at great cost, due to the lack of available driver resources. To compound the problem, vehicles and spares are in short supply, with lead times for new trucks up to 12 months. Fuel prices also keep creeping up, increasing 25% in total over the last year.
What is the solution?
There needs to be a greater incentive for young people to choose a career as a HGV driver, with UK Government support provided to reduce the cost of training. The UK Government must also take action to force insurance companies to cover new drivers and lower the minimum age from 25 to 21, as this will allow so many more talented young drivers to enter the industry. If nothing changes, Freight and Logistics providers in the UK will have to park up their trucks and close down their businesses!
Despite these difficult trading factors, the UK team in Ace Express Freight continue to work tirelessly to maintain high levels of service, adapting to meet these challenges head-on. Your ongoing support, patience and commitment is very much appreciated for all the team.