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The Driver Shortage

It was in the Sun paper last week that a growing shortage of LGV drivers was putting at risk millions of Christmas deliveries.  Before you say it, so yes, it must be true!

For those of us who have been in logistics for some years, it feels as if we have been here before, and lots of times!

But I wonder if there is something different going on now.

  • 70% of recruitment firms say the shortage is getting worse.
  • The FTA say that the UK is 52,000 LGV drivers short of what is needed.
  • The Recruitment and Employment Confederation highlight that half of lorry drivers are over 50.

I hope that 2018 will be the year where industry and the government finally get together to address this problem.

Let me make my small contribution to the debate.

It’s of course true that wage levels could be higher, but profit margins in the industry are at record low levels so even the most generous employer has little room for manoeuvre. Depressing for drivers, but true I’m afraid. Trust me, if employers could simply raise their wage rates to fix this bottleneck of supply then it would have happened long ago.

Unfortunately, the training necessary to enter the occupation continues to be prohibitively expensive.  Gaining a licence is expensive, hard to do and is the number one barrier. Could the government, free of worrying about State Aid rules associated with EU membership find a way to subsidise this training?  This is something that the industry has needed for years, but perhaps now is the time government can choose to do something positive.  A government looking to invest in the nation’s infrastructure could do far worse than prioritise the long neglected facilities our drivers use up and down the country. 

Our image is not the greatest.  Maybe the big players in the industry can get together and really push the opportunities we can offer.  But this means we need somebody to take the issue and those involved by the scruff of the neck.  I can think of a few ‘big beasts’ who could do the job.  Maybe now is the time for them to put their hands up.

Likewise, a government that supports the logistics sector is one that supports manufacturing and hence inward investment.  So really, let’s hope that the government makes a decision to support us in 2018.  It would be both a sensible and popular decision.

And of course, it’s worth noting that choosing not to do something is also a choice.  If the government decides not to support logistics in 2018, whether this is through not cutting diesel tax, or failing to bring in flexibilities in training (including Apprenticeships and the DCPC), we need to recognise that they are making a choice.  They are choosing not to support the sector who literally deliver our way of life and on who we are dependent every day – not just at Christmas.

Maybe 2018 is the year where the UK government will listen to drivers as they do in other countries.

I really hope it is.


This article was written by David Coombes for the Truck and Driver Magazine.