MPs warned: driver shortage will hit small hauliers hardest

Smaller hauliers stand to be hardest hit by industry efforts to tackle the acute driver shortage, representatives of some of the sector’s larger employers have warned MPs.

Speaking at the Transport Committee’s driver shortage inquiry earlier this week, Nagel Langdons HR manager Colin Snape said his company has addressed the driver shortage by increasing pay and improving benefits.

“But the knock-on effect of this is that if we [large operators] are paying better premiums, the SMEs are going to be feeling the pinch, as we are taking their drivers. It’s going to be those who really feel this issue at some stage in the future,” Snape told the committee.

Hermes Europe chief operations officer Martijn de Lange said the driver shortage was worsening and it was becoming harder to recruit. Hermes had launched initiatives such as Warehouse to Wheels to train existing staff, however the rapid growth of the sector meant it was still essential to attract people from outside the sector.

“You can see that pay is going up hugely, which you might say is really good, but it is going up more than average and if we don’t watch out, we [as an industry] may become uncompetitive,” he added.

The FTA put the driver shortfall at approximately 45,000 and as two-thirds of drivers are aged between 45 and 50 this is something that will only get worse.

Chief executive David Wells said that without improvement the industry faces a massive problem in 15 years’ time, far beyond the challenge it has now, as many drivers will reach retirement age.

Hermes’ de Lange agreed: “We see the [ageing workforce] as a ticking time bomb that is going to potentially hinder our ability to expand as a business, or it will increase costs substantially.

“We need to act now as a collective,” he said.