The driver shortage has reached crisis level in the UK, with demand increasing across supply chains as the country recovers from Covid-19. Leading voices within the logistics sector have been meeting with, and appealing to, the Government in an attempt to tackle the ever-increasing shortage of drivers within the sector. Unfortunately, positive outcomes seem few and far between. Here are our “Do’s and Don’ts” for tackling the obvious driver shortage in the UK supply chain.
DO Increase the Number of Overnight Parking Spaces
The lack of available overnight parking spaces has always been, and continues to be an obstacle in attracting more people to the industry. More than 1,400 HGV drivers are forced to spend the night sleeping in their vehicles every day. Despite previous assurances from the Government that provision of adequate locations for drivers to take their legally mandated rest breaks – including short stops and overnight stays – would be prioritised, a lack of progress means that drivers are still being forced to put themselves and their loads at risk. This can result in new entrants being deterred from applying for roles within the sector. Back in 2018, the government promised to supply 1,500 parking spaces for HGVs but is yet to deliver. Without safe and secure locations to take legally mandated rest stops, it’s difficult to attract new talent to the industry.
DO Improve Driver Testing
Currently a potential deterrent to new talent entering the sector, DVSA driver testing needs to be prioritised and the frequency of testing needs to be increased. This will hopefully then welcome a new wave of desperately needed drivers to the workforce. At the moment, the DVSA are facing a backlog of 25,000 tests that are estimated at current rates to take 27 weeks to perform (until the end of January 2022). However, new consultations propose allowing drivers to take one test to drive both an articulated and rigid lorry. This, says the Government, would streamline the process for new drivers to gain their HGV licence and would increase lorry test appointment availability. Although the Government has placed urgent focus on increased testing, the proposals for a reformation of the vocational driving test process to increase test capacity will take time to come into effect, and even longer before the full benefit can be felt.
DO Implement Flexible Delivery Times
The Government has also called on local councils to be flexible around delivery times relating to supermarkets and other retailers, which would allow drivers to make deliveries earlier in the morning or later in the evening where necessary. This relaxation of delivery hours combats reports of fresh food rotting in delivery depots due to a lack of haulage drivers to ship goods across the country, which has led to bare supermarket shelves in some regions.
DO Diversify The Workforce
Currently, it is estimated that less than 1% of the HGV drivers working on the UK’s roads are female. Looking at this statistic, it seems that there needs to be a bigger effort made to encourage women into the sector. How is the logistics industry meant to recover and grow if it’s only attracting male recruits? There is more to be done in attracting talent across all genders into the industry.
DON’T Simplify Training
Hauliers are wrongly criticised enough as it is in the media. When it comes to traffic accidents, HGV drivers are forced to take the brunt of the blame as their vehicle can cause the most damage; even though they have been disproved as the leading cause of traffic accidents. One only needs to take a look at the new ‘hierarchy’ of road users in the Highway Code to understand this. The last thing the logistics sector needs is undertrained drivers, so we need to ensure that testing is fair and abundant, but also appropriate.
DON’T Relax Driver Hours Further
The recently announced temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours rules allows HGV drivers to make slightly longer journeys, but this must only be used where necessary and must not compromise driver safety. This should not become permanent in any case, as the fixed hours ensure that drivers take enough breaks and get sufficient rest in order to maintain focus on the UK’s roads.