As we move ever closer to the big Christmas season once again, the impact of the current driver shortage in the UK HGV industry has yet again come to the fore with industry bosses using National Lorry Week this October to express further highlight the problem to the wider public.
It’s the biggest challenge facing the haulage industry in the UK and an issue that needs to be tackled – a reason for the Road Haulage Association’s (RHA) current lobbying to the Government to aid the cost of HGV training for potential newcomers into the industry. Indeed, as reported on HGV UK, chief executive Richard Burnett is particularly forthright in his view on the matter: “We are short of between 45,000 and 50,000 drivers and the situation is getting worse. Thousands of older drivers are leaving the industry and younger people can’t afford the £3,000 it costs to get a truck licence. The government could help but won’t. They should support a truck driving apprenticeship but are refusing to do so; even though they are forcing the larger trucking firms to pay the new apprenticeship levy.”
Christmas is Coming!
The arrival of Christmas only exacerbates the issue, with the season being a traditional period of high demand for deliveries, not least since the increase of online retail. Such a shortage in driver numbers puts added strain on meeting deliveries in a timely fashion at exactly the time when it’s needed the most; prompting some to predict that many gifts and supplies might even go undelivered or lead to increasingly bare shelves on the aisles of supermarkets and department stores.
It’s an issue for HGV companies and the industry overall, but more so, it remains an issue for the UK economy as a whole with more than 80% of all goods requiring some form of HGV road transit at some stage in its supply chain. Burnett has called the HGV industry the ‘lifeblood of the UK economy’ and it’s a statement with considerable merit in a market that’s so reliant on internet shopping, home delivery and even in-store supplies (as the goods still need to be distributed). With the American idea of Black Friday – that optimum day of shopping pre-Christmas – approaching, industry bosses have expressed ever greater concern that demand for supplies will put too great a burden on the current supply of trained HGV professionals.
Opportunities into the New Year
And, while it is too late to resolve the issue for this coming Christmas, such a scenario as is currently being faced by the industry needs to be addressed to ensure similar issues are not met in the future.
And, whilst there is still the burden of a cost for training to become a professional HGV driver there still presents an opportunity to sell the idea to younger members of the workforce looking for a new challenge and new career. With a good starting salary in the region of £28,000, a wage which compares favourably with any apprenticeship or even graduate training scheme in the UK, there is plenty of scope to make a quick return on the outlay of training costs. Indeed, such is the current desperation for new drivers to emerge, the likelihood of swift employment after training is very high in comparison to other industries meaning you can start earning quickly and with a degree of security that other jobs are not in a position to offer.