The UK economy is heading towards “a crippling logistical crisis”, after new research reveals that the already chronic driver shortage is being underplayed – and is set to worsen yet further.
The stark warning comes from Gary Benardout of HGVtraining.co.uk, the UK’s largest provider of HGV training, which is leading the push to bring young drivers to the sector – the only way a crisis can be averted.
“The UK is utterly reliant on road haulage, and commerce will take a huge hit if this issue isn’t addressed immediately,” says Benardout. “It won’t just be the logistics industry that suffers, but all businesses who in any way rely on road freight, which is to say, pretty much all of them. That means delayed deliveries, frustrated customers, higher costs and lost revenue.”
Already facing a predicted shortfall of 50,000 drivers by 2020 – and with the average age of UK lorry driver being 57 - it is critical that fresh blood is brought in to keep trucks on the road, and meet the ever booming demand for online deliveries. Recently, the Government announced it had agreed to a HGV Driver Trailblazer Apprenticeship, although the full details – including the financial aspect of this – are yet to emerge.
However, a major survey – of more than 2,000 people across the UK – into career attitudes by HGVtraining.co.uk brings worrying news for the sector. It finds that those aged 18-24 are among the least likely age group to consider as a lorry driver -with just one in five (21%) willing to consider getting behind the wheel.
Amongst the reasons cited for not wanting to go into trucking were a perceived lack of career progression, boredom and – tellingly – the cost of training to become a driver (around £3,000 for the CPC professional driver qualification).
Given the critical need to counter these concerns and focus on the truck drivers of tomorrow, Benardout and his company are launching their Young Truckers campaign. The campaign has the joint objectives of showing young people that logistics is an enticing career – whilst pushing for the practical financial and educational support needed to smooth their paths into the industry.
As such, HGVtraining.co.uk has released the Young Truckers’ Manifesto – a three-point plan to overcome the biggest barriers the industry poses to young people. The plan calls for:
- A Government commitment to establish a fund of £25m dedicated to training drivers aged 21-25
- Guaranteed free re-takes of the CPC for those who don’t pass on the first occasion
- An increased focus on promoting a career in logistics in schools – along the lines of a German-style emphasis on vocational options
Benardout believes that following this route will go a long way to averting, what he calls, a looming “crippling logistical crisis”: “We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and hope the driver shortage is suddenly going to disappear. We already have a shortage – and these figures reveal it’s only get to get worse.
“Unless we can get more young people into the profession it’s obvious there just aren’t going to be enough drivers – and that’s going to have a huge impact for retailers, consumers and any of the myriad businesses that rely on sending goods by road.
“We need to be pro-active: government, our sector and our schools system to make sure we can fill the jobs that are crying out to be filled. We need to be smart and act now.”
While the task of encouraging youngsters to consider a career in logistics face its challenges, the research also offered hope. In general, a quarter of people would consider a career as a lorry driver if they were to change careers - and with 9% expressed an interest in the transport and logistics sector, which is significantly higher than the traditionally more glamourous industries of sales, marketing, advertising and PR scored (all 4%).
“Our research proves that there is a good appetite from a career in logistics, and our task – and the task of the industry as a whole – is to bridge the gap between interest and recruitment,” continues Benardout. “It’s not an easy task, or one that can be completed immediately, but the sooner we tackle the issue, the sooner a resolution can be achieved.”