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Driver shortage crisis: call for action

02 September 2021

LOGISTICS UK and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have written to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to outline three steps the government can take to overcome the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers and lessen its impact on the supply chain.

The retail and logistics industries are taking measures to address the driver shortage challenge – including increasing pay rates, offering bonuses, and implementing internal training schemes – but the government must take immediate action to support supply chains, they argue.

Logistics UK and BRC are urging the government to: increase DVSA’s testing capacity permanently so the agency is able to process the backlog of driver tests placed on hold during the pandemic; review its decision not to grant temporary work visas to HGV drivers from the EU; and ensure its skills and training schemes support the recruitment of HGV drivers, by reforming the National Skills Fund to fund HGV driver training and injecting flexibility into the Apprenticeship Levy.

SCALA executive director Rob Wright further urged logistics companies to collaborate to cope with the upcoming Peak with fewer drivers.

“If we are to avoid crippling stock shortages as we approach the Christmas period, now is the time for greater collaboration to optimise UK transport. It is vital that retailers lead greater vertical collaboration between manufacturers, their customers and suppliers.

“As well as vertical collaboration, businesses should also look at the more challenging horizontal collaboration in which companies can work together across the category by sharing trucks and resources. In addition, businesses need to be re-assessing their fleets, for example, more companies can make use of double deck trailers.”

Charlie Walker of Walker Logistics added: “The uncomfortable truth is that lorry drivers have been undervalued and treated disrespectfully for years - not only by society in general but, shamefully, by some sections of the industry in which they operate.

Today’s HGV driver spends long hours under constant pressure from routing and scheduling planners. On arrival at a RDC, s/he will often be made to wait for an eternity in a small, invariably grim room (although some boast the luxury of a coffee machine) while awaiting a delivery slot. 60 hour working weeks – broken only by stops at inadequate restroom facilities ­and nights spent in ‘safe and secure’ parking sites that can feel anything but safe and secure do little to add to the job’s appeal.

“A good way to start the process would be to recognise that HGV drivers are absolutely vital to any successful and cost efficient supply chain and for the logistics industry to begin treating these vital workers with the respect that they deserve.”