Skills and workforce planning in the road haulage sector Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

A Driver shortage?

1.We believe that the driver shortage is a shortage of people willing to work in the sector rather than a shortage of people with the right qualifications and licences. It seems to us that the apparent shortage will get worse unless action is taken to improve retention and increase recruitment. (Paragraph 24)

2.We conclude that there is no single cause for the driver shortage but a combination of a number of factors make the job less attractive than it was. It is imperative that the industry takes steps to improve the terms and conditions so it can recruit and retain the drivers it needs. The industry will need to invest more in recruitment, training and driver welfare following years of under-investment. We acknowledge that this is challenging for many of the smaller operators, especially given the very tight margins operators face. To improve conditions it will be necessary to address the inadequate facilities provided currently for drivers. It will also be necessary to promote the sector better in schools and colleges. We are also concerned about the terms and conditions under which some agency drivers are required to work. (Paragraph 32)

3.The driver shortage has resulted in a dependence on agency and particularly foreign drivers that goes beyond what is needed to cope with seasonal variations and is now necessary to sustain normal operation. The dependence on agency staff means that operators in the sector are probably not investing enough in their staff. We think this creates two risks that need to be managed. First, if the UK becomes relatively less attractive as a place for foreign drivers to work, the shortage could become much more acute, possibly quite rapidly. Second, the longer-term sustainability of the UK’s road haulage sector could be undermined if there is not a steady stream of people through the sector gaining the skills and experience that they need to become transport managers and operators. (Paragraph 41)

The industry response

4.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. (Paragraph 53)

5.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. (Paragraph 58)

6.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 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. (Paragraph 65)

The Government response

7.The actions taken by industry, supported by Government, to improve recruitment have been successful but on too small a scale. We are concerned that, even when taken together, they will fall short of the number of drivers that are needed to address the current shortage and replace those likely to leave the sector in the next 10–15 years. Industry must scale up its efforts. The Government should assess the effectiveness of all of the steps it is taking to support recruitment and consider whether they represent good value for money. The road freight industry should also assess the impact of any steps to alleviate the driver shortage on other parts of the logistics sector. (Paragraph 92)

8.The Government’s primary responsibility in addressing the driver shortage is to ensure public safety is not compromised; the high standards expected of drivers must be maintained. It can do this using its policy and regulatory framework around licensing of drivers and operators, the registration and inspection of vehicles, and the periodic training of drivers. (Paragraph 93)

9.The Government should ensure that the measures it has told us it is taking to address the driver shortage bear fruit and deliver new drivers committed to a career in logistics in the kinds of numbers needed. We believe there are four steps the Department for Transport can take. It should:

10.The Government is right that the provision of roadside facilities is principally a matter for the private sector, but it can take steps to encourage investment in better facilities. We welcome the Government’s commitment to a survey of roadside facilities. It is important that this review looks not only at the quality of the facilities but at their spatial distribution. It must be based on qualitative and quantitative measures and involve consultation with the users of the services. It needs to look not only at current facilities but should and examine the planning guidance and building regulations to ensure any new facilities cater properly for the needs of the drivers who will use them. It is not sufficient to look just at the roadside facilities on the strategic road network. Many of the problems arise at depots and customer facilities where drivers collect or deliver goods and materials. The Government should work with the FTA, RHA and trade associations representing the customers of road haulage operators to discuss the issues around the treatment of drivers and to consider the merits of a good practice standard or code of conduct. (Paragraph 100)

11.Insufficient attention is being given to the retention of LGV drivers. Simply recruiting drivers is not a sustainable solution if road haulage companies do not deal with issues affecting retention. Efforts to improve retention will not only help to secure investment in the recruitment and training of new drivers but could also help to attract back those who have recently left the industry and make the sector appealing to under-represented groups. We recommend that the Government consider whether any further investment it makes in helping the road haulage sector with recruitment should be contingent on action by the sector to address retention; to do otherwise will be to continue to try to top up a leaking bucket. (Paragraph 102)

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

27 July 2016