While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey by the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year over year in its 23 member countries, the problem made itself felt in the UK. companies in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many in the industry have been wary of and warning for for months, has led to a situation in which companies are suddenly faced with significant difficulties in getting goods to the shelves on time, as well as ‘at inflated operating costs for doing so.
In addition, the public may also see prices increase due to greater than supply demand for certain product lines, which in turn leads to the risk of customer dissatisfaction and damage to the reputation of the company. brand and stakeholders. With that price inflation expected to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs controls ends, the worst may yet be yet to come.
“Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry more attractive to young drivers, which will require a joint effort by government, industry bodies and the industry as a whole.”
That said, we have already heard reports of service disruption due to lack of driver availability, which means volumes are not being transported or delivered on time and on schedule. A concrete example of this happened on the weekend of June 4-6 with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages at its logistics provider. DHL.
But where does this skills shortage come from?
Supply is the main problem. Specifically, the number of drivers available in the EU has declined to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by the return of drivers to their home countries during the COVID-19 pandemic , as well as changes in exchange rates making the UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, along with the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driving and transportation costs.
Complications from COVID-19 have also meant that there have been no heavy truck driving tests in the past year, meaning the 6,000 to 7,000 new drivers expected over the course of the year. past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector, we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for example, the lengthening of delivery times for orders.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespersons to write to the government about the driver shortage for the trucks. The letter echoed the view of much of the industry that the root cause of this problem is both multifaceted and, at least in some ways, long-standing.
Thus, many industry players agree on the driving factors of this crisis. But what can we do?
Quite simply, outside of companies that are completely reorganizing their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short term, the government should consider providing financial assistance to industry, and this can also be supported more broadly through legislative changes.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way to alleviating the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, the government should also look for ways to increase the availability of heavy truck driving tests after the lockdown created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
In the longer term, steps need to be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for young drivers, which will require a joint effort of government, industry bodies and the industry as a whole. . As it stands, several sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with just one in a hundred drivers under 25. We must therefore do more to increase the pool of talent entering the industry if we are to compensate for greater skills shortages in the long term.
After a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-heralded driver shortage is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the entire supply chain industry, have been rightly recognized for the seismic role they have played in keeping the nation moving and fueled over the past year under a unprecedented pressure. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see the government answer the calls to provide the support the sector needs and work hand in hand with industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete steps to this effect soon, we risk having a few hectic months.
Rob Wright is Executive Director of SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics industry