It’s time to tackle the driver shortage or face economic harm

The government must act now to combat the impending HGV driver shortage, or see the UK face significant economic consequences, according to delegates at a recent Road Haulage Association (RHA) roundtable.

RHA director of policy Jack Semple said it was imperative the government realised that UK growth could be significantly affected by a lack of new HGV drivers entering the sector “if it does not urgently move to provide targeted funding of HGV licence acquisition”.

With the Driver CPC deadline (10 September) looming, RHA members spoke of agencies already unable to provide drivers for shifts, and smaller subcontractors having to park trucks during the summer holidays due to a lack of drivers, all of which could lead to pressure on wages.

The timing of the Driver CPC deadline would also exacerbate the issue, said Robin Tate, fleet and facilities manager at Yusen Logistics UK, as it comes into force as firms approach the Christmas peak.

The latest DVSA figures show that 44,937 category C+E and category C tests (combined) were taken in the year to March 2014. Of these, 23,905 were passed, however, as recently as 2008/09, 86,826 tests were being taken (C+E and category C), with a combined pass rate of 39,220.

Insufficient funding, poor industry image, a failure to interest young people in the industry, the length of training, and the cost of licence acquisition were highlighted as the main barriers to attracting drivers into the sector.

“How do we make the freight sector more attractive to young people?” asked Labour MP Rob Flello, chairman of the All-Parliamentary Group on fFreight Transport, who was taking part in the event.

As funding is already available for A-level students attending college, he suggested he would call on the government to invest the same amount on students wanting to take vocational logistics training.

However, Tony Mohan, tactical sales manager at Bibby Distribution, said: “This suggestion is right, but it is a long-term solution. We need a two-pronged approach. How are we going to get over the issue of what happens in September? We need a solution for now.”

Semple added: “The government doesn’t believe it should be paying simply for HGV licence acquisition, even though that is clearly what the economy needs. It is time now for hauliers to make their views known to government.”