Skills and workforce planning in the road haulage sector Contents

3The industry response

Action taken the road freight sector

42.The use of agency and foreign drivers is the most obvious response to the driver shortage by road haulage operators. This is unsurprising, as it is a natural extension of the way such companies have coped with seasonal variations in demand for their services. Jack Semple, Director of Policy, Road Haulage Association, said that the RHA estimated 60,000 lorry drivers in the UK had come from abroad.104 Foreign drivers have typically been recruited from Eastern European countries and, more recently, Portugal.105 Cabotage106 is a very small part of domestic road haulage but it was suggested to us that foreign drivers and hauliers were already filling gaps at the low-cost end of the industry.107

43.In an effort to recruit, a number of larger road haulage operators run apprenticeship schemes or driver training academies. There is also a Government-backed apprenticeship scheme, which will be replaced in 2017 by the new trailblazer apprenticeships (see paragraph 79). It tends to be the larger companies that can afford to offer such schemes and SMEs can only take driver training so far as resources are limited by very tight margins.108

44.The road haulage sector runs campaigns to raise awareness of the opportunities for drivers. In 2015 the RHA launched Driving Britain’s Future, a 12 month project in partnership with Jobcentre Plus (JCP), which aimed to bring new recruits into the industry by giving JCP customers experience of working in the industry and helps to promote the industry.109 In response to Parliamentary Questions from Mary Robinson MP and Christopher Chope MP, Nick Boles said that the scheme aimed to identify 2,400 work experience placements for JCP customers with logistics employers.110 Other schemes and initiatives include:

45.The driver shortage puts pressure on operators to be good employers. The FTA, RHA and operators we heard from told us that operators often had to pay a premium or offer better benefits to attract drivers.112 The tight margins within logistics might make it harder for SMEs to absorb these kinds of cost pressures and we suspect that only a few operators can afford to pay a premium. Colin Snape, Nagel Langdons Ltd, explained that drivers were drawn away from smaller operators as large companies improved terms and conditions in response to the shortage.113

Priorities for the road freight sector

46.Adrian Jones, Unite the Union, suggested there were three things the road haulage sector needed to do: “Number one would be work-life balance and long hours. Number two would be facilities—for drivers to be able to access proper and secure facilities. The third would be career progression.”114 In order to recruit new drivers and help licensed and qualified drivers to return to the sector operators will need to take steps to:

Terms and conditions

47.Terms and conditions affect both recruitment and retention. We heard from operators that they had to offer good terms and conditions in order to attract drivers. Colin Snape said that his company “really had to go out of our way to attract drivers”.115 Adrian Jones, Unite the Union, thought that larger operators tended to offer better terms and conditions in order to retain the commitment of their drivers. He also noted that agencies competed by offering a higher hourly wage but agency staff often do not get the other benefits associated with being an employee (such as sick leave and holiday pay).116 Pension provision is not what it could be.117 Long hours, poor rest conditions and close monitoring (by tachographs and telematics) can put off younger drivers.118 Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport acknowledged that terms and conditions was where there was “real need for improvement”.119

48.The hourly rate of pay for LGV drivers, excluding overtime, is £10.54, slightly lower than the rate for bus and coach drivers (£10.68). Given the required higher skill levels and training costs the rate of pay for LGV drivers does not compare well with that of van drivers (£9.02), who need no training beyond the standard car licence.120 The DfT said the small pay differential between LGV drivers and van drivers could be seen to be acting as a disincentive to undertake the training required to qualify for the more highly skilled profession.121


49.The lack of diversity in the road haulage sector is very pronounced; 92% of the 400,000 or so people holding both an LGV licence and a Driver CPC are men (see figure 9). Jenny Tipping, Nathalie Axon and Kat Springle all thought very gradual progress was being made;122 this appears to be confirmed by official statistics, which show gender balance is improving (15% of drivers aged 21–25 are women compared to 4% of 51–55 year olds) but it has a long way to go (see figure 10).

Figure 9: Proportion of men and women licensed and qualified to drive an LGV

Source: Department for Transport (RHS0027)

50.Nathalie Axon suggested that the absence of role models contributed to the lack of diversity.123 Kat Springle said it was important to educate women about the role in order to challenge the perception that large trucks could only be driven by men.124

Figure 10: % of women, by age group

Source: Department for Transport (RHS0027)

51.There are few reliable statistics on ethnicity or alternative working patterns but it was reported in 2010 that only 3% of the road haulage workforce in England was from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. The same report stated that only 9% of Road Haulage employees work part-time.125

52.Logistics is already struggling to attract recruits among its traditional workforce—white males—and the sector will have to recruit from other groups.126 Jenny Tipping said:

Historically, we have associated the trucker not just with a job but with an identity. If you do not fit that kind of identity, you are not going to see yourself in that job. Effectively, it is just a job like any other. It is a collection of skills and tasks and those tasks can be learned by anybody equally.127

53.It is important that the sector broadens the pool of people from which it recruits to ensure BAME groups and women are better represented in its workforce of drivers. Efforts to attract women or BAME drivers to the industry will not solve the driver shortage if the issues currently affecting retention are not addressed. It should not be the case that these groups are targeted to replace drivers who have been driven away from the industry because of poor terms and conditions; attracting less represented groups should be done alongside improvements in the sector, not as an alternative. Current data provide sufficient information on gender balance but not on other measures of diversity. The Government and industry should consider how more reliable data can be collected on the number of drivers from BAME backgrounds and the numbers of part-time workers. They should then use the data to assess the effectiveness of the steps taken to address diversity and to plan the actions needed to improve gender balance, the representation of BAME groups, and the diversity in patterns of work.

Barriers to entry

54.The evidence we received indicated that operators were often reluctant to take on newly qualified drivers.128 Essex County Council said evidence from local JCP offices suggested that employers who advertise vacancies with them, and other employment agencies, seek work-ready employees with an LGV licence and several years of experience in the sector. This creates a barrier to new entrants of all ages to the sector.129 Barriers to entry make young drivers less attractive to operators or can make driving less attractive to young people. These include:

55.The CILT told us that younger people are not being attracted into the industry because of irregular working hours, long absences from home and stress derived from time-pressures (largely due to electronic tachograph drivers’ hours controls).131 Jolyon Drury said that driver pay and other terms and conditions affected the level of interest shown in road haulage by younger people,132 while Adrian Jones pointed out that young people became drivers because they wanted to drive rather than because the career was attractive.133

Driver training and licence acquisition

56.LGV drivers undertake a significant amount of training and must refresh their knowledge and skills periodically. The RHA argued for support from Government to help get people into the sector. Jack Semple said that any investment by the Government would be recouped through the contribution road haulage makes to the economy overall.134 Kat Springle, Operations Director, Easy as HGV, noted most of the training costs were upfront costs and most of her customers were self-funding. She also said that employers were often reluctant to invest in driver training; she saw a case for employers funding more of the training themselves.135

57.The cost of licence acquisition can be a significant barrier.136 In the analysis by RepGraph for the FTA the financial cost of acquiring a licence was ranked as the greatest barrier to driver recruitment, followed by lack of apprenticeship schemes and poor industry image.137 Lord Ahmad said the Government’s position was that funding was not available for statutory licence acquisition but that officials at DfT and the Skills Funding Agency were working to identify elements of the driving test standard that could be covered by Trailblazer Apprenticeship standard.138

58.It is up to the industry to find ways of funding licence acquisition. We do not think the sector will be able to broaden its appeal beyond its core demographic unless it changes its approach. It is not uncommon for bus and coach companies to fund acquisition of a PSV licence. We accept that bus and coach companies tend run on much better margins and can receive public subsidy for non-profitable work so this kind of investment may be more affordable for them. The Government’s support, in the form of apprenticeships and loans, is welcome and we expect to see it being more active in providing this kind of support.

Insurance costs

59.Kat Springle, Easy as HGV, said that instead of focusing on encouraging experienced drivers back into the cab, operators should be looking to harness the enthusiasm of those who are newly qualified but whom operators are reluctant to employ because of the high cost of insurance.139 Employers of drivers under 25 years of age can face very high insurance premiums. Lord Ahmad accepted there were too few young drivers entering the sector.140 He said the level of insurance premiums was a commercial decision for insurers. He acknowledged that younger drivers tend to make more claims and these can cost significantly more than for older drivers.141 While newly licenced and qualified drivers will have gone through rigorous training and testing there are relatively few of them and this may have an impact on the calculation of risk when assessing insurance premiums.

60.Kat Springle said that if training companies and insurance companies worked with hauliers on the delivery of training, insurance companies could offer lower premiums for young or newly qualified drivers.142 Jenny Tipping said that large companies dealt with the high insurance premiums for young and newly qualified drivers by assessing all their drivers regardless of experience and only accepting those passing the assessment.143 She noted that even people with 30 years’ experience were turned away. Lord Ahmad suggested that fleet insurance might be a way forward for some operators.144 Mainstream insurers are moving to providing “open driving” fleet policies without age restrictions and increased premiums. Younger drivers may be subject to higher excesses but at least the insurance premiums would not make operators think twice before employing a younger driver.

61.Jolyon Drury said large companies with comprehensive training programmes could train young drivers and, by using telematics, could monitor the driver’s performance. He said that with this kind of close monitoring he saw no reason why an 18-year-old should not progress through the industry driving the largest type of vehicle. He noted that the cost of this might not be affordable for many of the smaller operators.145

Public image and promotion of the sector

62.Jenny Tipping told us that the perception of the industry was limiting the pool of people who are prepared to consider driving as a career.146 The CILT called for a concerted effort by industry and government to improve the public perception of the sector, with better promotion in schools and colleges and through schemes such as trailblazers.147

63.Media reports on the security of drivers crossing the channel and the efforts by migrants to stow away on lorries could deter some people from considering a job in road haulage. Coverage of Operation Stack and fly parking in Kent and elsewhere will have helped to highlight the problems with the inadequacy of facilities for drivers.

64.Accidents involving cyclists and LGVs are also often featured prominently in any media coverage. Media reporting on incidents, like that in Glasgow in December 2014 when a lorry collided with pedestrians, killing six people and injuring 15 others, also affect the public’s perception of road haulage. We commented on the interaction of LGVs and road users in our report on road traffic law enforcement.148

65.It is important that the industry gets beyond the point where it appeals mainly to those with a passion for driving. We believe that there are steps the industry can take to encourage young people, regardless of their background and gender, to work as drivers. The road haulage sector is competing with other sectors for young people leaving schools and colleges. Many of the options young people will consider require some additional training, but it is unusual for a sector to require new entrants to fund the acquisition of licences and pay for the additional training. Faced with a choice it is not surprising that young people will look at jobs driving vans or buses where they do not need additional qualifications or will be funded to acquire them. The industry needs to work with insurers to find ways of reducing the cost of insuring young drivers. Drivers go through extensive training, their work driving is closely regulated and in many cases their driving is monitored using telematics. We believe that it should not be impossible to find a way to reduce the cost of insurance to encourage more operators to consider employing younger drivers. It is primarily the responsibility of the industry to find ways of addressing the cost of insurance but the Government has a role to play in facilitating this work.

105 Q5 [Colin Snape], Q8 [Jack Semple], Q44 [Jack Semple], Q59 [Adrian Jones], Q80 [Jolyon Drury]

106 Cabotage is the haulage of goods for hire or reward within one country by a vehicle registered in another country.

107 Q80 [Jolyon Drury]

108 Q8 [Jack Semple], Q80 [Jolyon Drury]

109 Road Haulage Association (RHS0016)

110 PQ 17480 on Large Goods Vehicles Drivers: Apprentices, and PQ 17548 on Apprentices: Large Goods Vehicle Drivers, 02 December 2015

117 Qq95–7 [Adrian Jones]

118 Q64 [Jolyon Drury]

120 Department for Transport (RHS0017)

121 Department for Transport (RHS0017)

125 Skills for Logistics, AACS LMI report, 2010

126 Equality is blind, Roadway magazine, April 2015

128 Q101 [Kat Springle]

129 Essex County Council (RHS0018)

130 Q35 [Jack Semple], Q194 [Lord Ahmad], Unite the Union (RHS0009)

131 The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (RHS0011)

136 Q14 [David Wells]

137 Solving the driver crisis, An independent analysis of the current driver shortage prepared for FTA by RepGraph Ltd, November 2015

138 Department for Transport (RHS0026)

141 Department for Transport (RHS0027)

147 The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (RHS0011)

148 House of Commons Transport Select Committee, Road Traffic Law Enforcement, Second Report of Session 2015–16, HC518, March 2016

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

27 July 2016