Despite warnings from the Road Haulage Association that the current shortage of HGV drivers could put the economic recovery at risk, there was no mention in the last budget of any funding aimed at recruiting and training a new generation of drivers.
So how bad are things for the UK haulage industry, and is there a solution to the problem of falling driver numbers without the support of George Osbourne and the Treasury?
In the past 5 years, HGV licence applications have dropped by more than 32,000 and it is estimated that by the end of 2016 the UK haulage industry will be 60,000 drivers short.
The introduction of the Certificate of Professional Competence led to a number of experienced drivers walking away from the industry rather than go through the, some would say excessive, 35 hours of training drivers are now required to complete every five years. And with 60% of drivers currently over 45 years of age there certainly appears to be a lack of new blood in the industry.
With an increase in the level of truck crime and frequent horror stories on the news of immigrants trying to sneak onboard vehicles travelling through Calais it starts to become obvious why driver numbers are dwindling and to realise that somewhere along the line we could start to see empty shelves and disappointed customers across the UK as deliveries can’t be made.
Is there a solution?
One answer could be found with new technologies eliminating the need for HGV drivers altogether but, even with the might of Google leading the way, this solution is many years of testing and legislation away.
So is there a viable solution in the short term? Well actually there might just be. It’s often argued that youngsters no longer want to become lorry drivers due to the lack of glamour but could it be simpler than that, could it be that our young adults just aren’t aware that driving trucks is even an option for them?
A report earlier this year by The All Party Parliamentary Group for Freight Transport stated that “While the general public has some awareness of the drivers and the role that they play in the movement of goods, they are generally unaware of the roles which are required to sustain a fleet of commercial vehicles,”
The industry is not front of mind and with a drive in recent years to encourage school leavers to attend university rather than participate in vocational courses, chances are that unless a relative is already involved in the haulage industry then driving trucks won’t be something that has been raised as a possible career option.
But with the reduction of the age limit for an HGV licence to 18, greater flexibility in truck insurance options for younger drivers and an average articulated lorry driver salary of £30,000 could it be that a simple campaign to ‘drive’ awareness in schools, colleges and to the nearly one million young people who are currently not in employment, education or training (NEETs), could help to stem the tide and ensure that Christmas 2017 doesn’t need to be cancelled after all.
Of course, if the government could be persuaded to offer support through vocational loans and grants then this would certainly help to speed up the process but in the meantime maybe more information like this from GoThinkBig could be the answer.