The problem around HGV driver shortages in the UK has been a focus of attention in the Houses of Parliament so far in 2016, with Transcom, a Parliament Select Committee sitting and hearing evidence from industry leaders and experts regarding the situation.
As we’ve discussed on this site before, the issue around driver shortage in the road haulage sector is at potential crisis point with estimates of a shortfall of anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000 drivers, depending on which report you read. Whatever the actual number, the figures are pretty stark and solutions have been sought for a number of years now.
Over a number of sittings, the Select Committee has heard testimony from experts such as Freight Transport Association Chief Exec David Wells and Kat Springle, Operations Director at Easy As HGV, delivering their own verdicts as to the root cause of the driver shortage and also measures that could be implemented to turn the situation around.
Tackling the Cost of Training Issue (or Myth?)
One of the issues that is routinely highlighted as a barrier to recruiting new drivers into the industry is the cost associated with training and qualifying to become an HGV driver.
Figures in the region of three to five thousand pounds are regularly bandied about as the cost attached to taking up the required training and examining to become a Cat C or higher HGV driver. However, as discussed at the Committee hearings, this is a figure that has been exaggerated and is in fact, somewhat wide of the mark.
The reality behind the cost of training, the hearing heard, was that a new driver could qualify to become a Class 2 HGV driver for less than £2,000. Adding to the call for even greater accessibility, FTA Chief Wells called for the Government to include driver training into the ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeship scheme currently being championed. A move, it was claimed, which would further remove any barriers, perceived or otherwise, that might exist and hinder new driver recruitment.
Improving the pathway to full-time recruitment
Another issue that was highlighted for addressing during the hearing centred around the age-old problem of driver experience being a hindrance to full employment. It’s the classic situation that many industries have had to overcome over the years – namely that new recruits can’t get the required 2 year’s experience wanted by employers because they lack the experience to get the work – causing a perennial gap.
This is an issue that could be resolved by the softening of the stance insisting on this level of experience. It was argued in Parliament that the degree to which driver’s are now trained, examined and then monitored are rigorous enough to ensure that they are competent and professional enough to take up full-time driving positions without the 2 year experience threshold.
The argument was made that there are plenty of potential new drivers in the 25-40 year old male category (the typical catchment for HGV drivers) in low paid income who are aware of the potential benefits associated with becoming a driver – good starting salary, relative job security. Furthermore it was claimed that a reasonably healthy number of trainees are passing through training centres each and every month – only to find difficulty in being taken on before they rack up the requisite experience.
If this situation could be overcome, the committee heard, then at least a portion of the current shortfall could be overcome.
Clearly the issue is still a live one for the entire HGV industry; but it is an issue that’s certainly not being ignored. With Parliamentary engagement and ongoing initiatives from organisations such as the FTA then the drive to encourage new drivers into the industry and then into secure jobs continues apace.