FTA Logistics Report Reveals Effects of Driver Shortages

A good haulage driver has always been a valuable thing for a transport business. Successful hauliers must be able to keep to tight time schedules and adapt to changing conditions, as well as (of course) being able to drive a large vehicle safely and competently.

Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of people with all these skills, and many in the industry are unable to fill vacancies, leading the overall transport and logistics sector to suffer.

This has led the Freight Transport Association (FTA), in partnership with Santander, to put together a report on the issue. Read on for a guide to what’s in the report, potential consequences, and some ways forward.

Putting Together the Report

That it’s getting harder to find a good haulage driver is no secret, and many are aware that this is due to a shortage of key skills. In partnership with Santander Corporate and Commercial, the FTA polled more than 500 freight and logistics businesses, asking for predictions on what the next year or so will bring.

What it Says

In the words of FTA’s head of skills campaigns, Sally Gilson, transport firms are facing ‘serious challenges in the recruitment and retention of labour’. She cites some stats that drive home the difficulty of finding a haulage driver. Over the next year:

· 15% of current haulier vacancies will likely go unfulfilled

· A further 36% of roles will only be filled after long delays

Worse, shortages are expected in related roles throughout the industry, with companies predicting difficulties in finding mechanics, technicians, fitters and even warehouse staff.

Causes

Many factors are contributing to firms’ worries, but perhaps the biggest one is Brexit. A definitive 61% of those surveyed said that uncertainty over leaving the European Union was a barrier to international growth.

Moreover, Brexit is likely to play a significant role in exacerbating other factors driving change. ‘An aging workforce’ and ‘competition for skilled staff’ are both pointed to by Gilson as important reasons for the skills shortage. But she also notes ‘shifting migration patterns – in part in response to Brexit’ as crucial, pointing out that the average UK haulage driver is 48 years old, while 13% of hauliers in the country are EU nationals, whose ‘residency is not guaranteed post-Brexit’.

Consequences

If this issue is not resolved, the consequences for both the industry and the country as a whole could be dire. Over 2.7 million people are currently employed in the logistics sector, and it contributes £124 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy.

As John Simkuins, head of transport and logistics at Santander, notes, it is key that private and public sectors support the industry in its ability to adapt to changing patterns of migration and consumption, and economic challenges more generally.

Plans for the Future

Still, there is reason to be hopeful. The report notes FTA plans to lobby for unused apprenticeship levy funds to be spent on haulage driver training programmes, and for changes to the future immigration white paper. In Gilson’s words, it is important that policy be amended so that ‘non-UK logistics workers are welcomed in the UK, both before and after Brexit’.

Solving the skills shortage is just one of many issues faced by the sector and good managers should be carefully looking ahead to plan the successful future of their firms.

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching a haulage driver with jobs in road transport and haulage work, and is now the fastest growing Freight Exchange in the UK.

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