MPs told 'unnecessary barriers' not helping driver crisis

The HGV driver shortage is being exacerbated by unnecessary barriers that are preventing newly qualified drivers entering the industry, MPs were told this week.

Speaking at the Transport Committee’s second evidence session on the HGV driver shortage (CM 21 January) this week, Kat Springle, operations director at Easy as HGV, said she accepted there were many disillusioned older drivers leaving the industry.

However, she argued that there were also many younger, newly-qualified drivers who are excited by the industry and keen to progress.

She told MPs: “Not enough is being done to get these new drivers into the industry.This is because there is a disconnect between hauliers and insurance providers and so they are not able to use the bank of drivers that is there.

"We have them sitting there, but hauliers are not able to take them on because of insurance issues. Time and time again I ask this question of hauliers and they say they cannot afford to insure them.”

Employers’ reluctance to hire female drivers was also cited as a barrier to entry. “Recruitment agencies are working for their clients and if the client is against female drivers, the agency will withhold their CVs,” said Springle.

She also called for theory tests to be offered in the driver’s mother tongue to enable more drivers from overseas to qualify.
This came as the RHA announced an initiative to help address the shortage of women in the road transport sector.

The ‘She’s RHA’ programme, conceived by RHA board member Lesley O’Brien, aims to promote a “new, welcoming culture” in the industry via a forum in which women can share their experiences and highlight the range of career paths available.

RHA marketing manager Kejeene Beard said the scheme would focus on bringing women in the industry together before looking at how the message could then be spread to those outside it. “Just 2% of workers in the sector are women,” said Beard.

“By 2022, we need another 1.2 million workers in this industry to sustain it and we have a massive workforce out there just waiting to be tapped into,” she added.

However, Unite national officer Adrian Jones warned MPs that unless conditions improve in the industry, driver retention levels will continue to decline.

He pointed at unsociable and long working hours, the lack of secure overnight facilities, excessive monitoring of drivers, lack of toilet facilities and tight delivery schedules as key factors causing drivers to leave the industry.

“There needs to be a fundamental change,” he said.