And so, another year draws to a close with another twelve months of challenges, excitement and possibility looming large on the horizon for the HGV industry. So what better time then, than to take a moment to look back upon the news that’s shaped us over the past year whilst trying to peer hopefully towards a bright future once the tinsel and fairy lights are put back in their boxes in the attic.
The Continued Driver Shortage Issue
It’s no real secret that the dominant issue in the HGV and freight industry over the past year (as it was the previous) has been the continued shortage of qualified drivers in the UK.
Acknowledged as a critical issue for the industry by Chancellor George Osborne in his pre-election budget back in March the driver shortage has been the number one hot potato for haulage and logistics firms across the country with the leading figures in the industry (as well as those involved in the recruitment and training of new HGV drivers) both highlighting the ongoing problem and looking into solutions moving forward. Indeed, it was the primary focus of the Freight Transport Association’s Spring Conference (at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry) with their ‘Solving the Driver Crisis’ summit.
Figures around the shortage have varied, according to which media source you read, but the general consensus seems to suggest that the industry requires somewhere between forty and sixty thousand new drivers to meet the demand.
And, as ever, it was an issue that threatened to make an impact on the busiest time of the year for the HGV industry – namely the Christmas delivery season – as we highlighted in previous articles.
So what does the future hold?
Undoubtedly it will be the major focus point for 2016 as it was this year. In October, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) put new recruitment top of its list of priorities for the coming year, citing that a major overhaul of how HGV careers are presented to young people was required. This was delivered through putting renewed pressure on the Government for financial assistance to help with acquiring HGV licences, apprenticeships and other training initiatives.
Alongside the obvious promotion of the clear benefits of becoming an HGV driver – career longevity and stability, a good starting salary (£28,000) and progression opportunities – 2016 is a year to push the considerable benefits of a career as an HGV driver in comparison to other vocational work.
Again, something mentioned in these pages, the year has presented an enormous challenge on Operation Stack. Prolonged strike action in Calais Docks saw Operation Stack stretched way beyond capacity through the summer, exacerbated by the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. It’s prompted the Government to announce major changes to the procedure with new off-road facilities promised for the future to provide a more favourable place for HGV drivers to park whilst hopefully to ease congestion issues around Kent.
Higher Pass Rates
For those who are entering the industry, 2015 saw evidence of ever-higher standards among new recruits and the standard of training being received. With new drivers trained and assessed as part of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) the standards of safety and competence behind the wheel are constantly being monitored whilst HGV UK reported in early December that first time pass rates for lorry and bus tests in the UK have risen to 82.4%, demonstrating a year on year increase for the 3rd consecutive year.
The HGV industry certainly hasn’t been left behind when it comes to innovation and invention in 2015 with new technology being tested, theorised over and indeed launched to market.
From new designs in cabin visibility, video walls on the back of lorries for car drivers to see the road ahead to trials of self-driving lorries, the year has been full of innovation with the prospects for 2016 being a continuation of this particular new age thinking to improve efficiency and safety for drivers and other road users alike.