Skills and workforce planning in the road haulage sector Contents


103.The industry must take a long-term view if it is to meet the challenges posed by likely growth in demand and the effects of the demographic time-bomb, both of which will be felt increasingly over the next 10–15 years. A lack of investment by employers in training, poor terms and conditions, an increasingly pressured and unpleasant work environment, complicated rules and requirements and a growth in alternative careers have all contributed, to varying extents, to the current driver shortage.

104.It appears based on current statistics, the industry is not faced with a shortage of licensed and qualified drivers; rather a shortage of those willing to work as drivers. Industry and government have focused principally on recruitment. But the industry is reluctant to take on young, inexperienced drivers because of the costs of training and insurance.

105.Drivers are expected to pay for licence acquisition and, in some cases, the training needed to obtain a driver qualification card. Such an outlay is not needed to drive a bus or coach (where despite similarly tight margins employers recognise the value to investing in drivers) or to drive a van. Faced with these costs potential drivers may choose to work in areas exempt from the requirement to have a Driver CPC or may look at careers other than driving, maintaining their driver qualifications only in case things do not work out.

106.Despite these factors, the number of drivers is growing, just not fast enough to meet current demand and certainly not fast enough to address the emerging challenges. As well as struggling to support young drivers, SMEs might also find it more difficult to make investment in new vehicles. The tight operating margins may result in a more consolidated industry structure going forward.

107.Goods are not going to stop moving by road but the UK road haulage industry could find that road haulage firms in other countries benefit from its failure to invest in drivers. Cabotage represents only 1% of road freight transported in the UK but this could easily grow, particularly given the number of foreign trucks returning to the continent empty.

108.Both the industry and Government have taken steps to address the shortage. None of these are on a scale likely to deliver the number of drivers needed. The road haulage sector, supported by the Government, needs to take further steps to:

109.The principal responsibility for taking action lies with the industry. Industry seems to expect the Government to step in and resolve the problems caused by years of under-investment. There are a number of issues on which it is right for the Government to support the sector. But operators across the country and their trade associations will need to do more to secure a sustainable future for the industry. It is vital that the road haulage sector takes a more strategic approach to planning for future recruitment and retention.

110.Changes in demand for road haulage services cannot be looked at in isolation. Developments in rail, and to a lesser degree water, freight will have an impact on the number of drivers needed. Levels of future demand will be affected by likely changes to economic prospects, any policy to encourage a shift of freight from road to rail and the successful completion of a wide range of rail and road infrastructure schemes. Making a reliable assessment of future demand will be harder given the uncertainty which may arise from Brexit.

111.A great deal has been written about the driver shortage. It is now time for the industry, supported by the Government, to take action to secure the future of the UK road haulage sector.

212 Q151 [Lord Ahmad]

213 Freight Transport Association (RHS0014)

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27 July 2016