Christmas is almost upon us – or at least that’s what adverts, our calendars and the dropping temperatures tell us. We’ve even spoken to the driver of the Coca-Cola Christmas truck who told us that holidays are definitely coming. But it could be the case that Christmas never actually arrives to some major retailers if the looming LGV driver shortage can’t be solved, and fast.
An alarming gap in the number of lorry drivers required to deliver to stores this Christmas and the number of working drivers available means big name outlets may be struggling to guarantee that they will get their Christmas stock in good time. Agencies supplying temporary drivers to big name stores in the run-up to Christmas have always had a hard time trying to recruit enough drivers for the festive season, but this year sees the biggest ever shortage of drivers since records began in 2005.83% of driver agencies said they were expecting driver recruitment this year to be a significant problem, according to a study by the Recruitment and Employment Federation.
They estimate that at least 35,000 extra drivers will be needed to cover the Christmas period, with many large-name stores using temporary drivers via agencies to fulfil this extra demand – the same agencies who are currently having a very hard time trying to find the staff required. This is on top of the year-round LGV driver shortage currently being experienced in the UK. The Freight Transport Association’s Logistics Report 2016 highlights an even bigger gap overall, with a minimum of 45,000 drivers needed to plug the current gap, although it could be as many as 60,000.
As we reported recently, there is a worrying trend of Eastern European drivers leaving their jobs because of the poor conversion rate of the pound to their native currency offered in post-Brexit Britain, which is stifling their wages and forcing them to reconsider their employment options. This problem is compounded by the fact that British drivers are simply not stepping up in large enough numbers to pull the industry out of the current shortage, and a large number of working drivers are reaching retirement age without enough younger drivers to replace them.
It’s not just the number of drivers which is under scrutiny, but the kinds of people going into the profession too. MPs have also raised concerns that there are not enough people from black and minority ethnic communities in the haulage industry, and that women were likewise underrepresented in the sector. The average HGV driver in the UK is over 45, white and male. 92% of licence-holders qualified to drive HGVs are male, and more 60% are aged 45 or over, which could mean the problem only grows once these drivers reach retirement age.
Could it be that making the industry as welcoming as possible to female or BME candidates is the key to getting the sector back on track? One solution to the LGV driver shortage would certainly be to attract more women and BME drivers to take the wheel, as well as younger drivers. That’s the path being set out by MPs in the new report, which also contains other recommendations for obstacles that need to be addressed in more detail, including the cost of qualifying as an HGV driver, which can sometimes be up to £4,000.
It’s in the whole country’s best interests to do what we can to encourage new drivers to take up these vital jobs. Not only can they help to plug the driver gap, but new faces can bring fresh energy to the haulage sector and make it an even more diverse and welcoming community.
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