Calling all drivers – tackling the shortage
Where have all the drivers gone? Haulage industry organisations have long warned about the shortage of professional drivers. According to the website Motor Transport (August 2015), the industry currently faces a shortfall of 45,000 HGV drivers.
A new initiative, launched on the 11th of September 2015, by the Department for Transport, therefore, has been widely welcomed.
What is being done
Given such a significant shortfall in the number of drivers – who are clearly essential to operating any distribution of goods by road – both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) have been calling on government to tackle the issue.
The new government initiative is spearheaded by Parliament’s Transport Select Committee and lobbyists for the industry, Commercial Motor, have published a synopsis of the committee’s brief:
- the extent to which a shortage of qualified drivers is affecting the haulage and distribution industry – the website Foodmanufacture.co.uk, for instance, has reported the measure being adopted by some retailers most seriously affected by the driver shortage disrupting supplies;
- ways in which the government might support or enable the recruitment and support of a workforce of professional drivers – the FTA, for example, has previously called for student-type loans for drivers embarking on professional training courses, better facilities for learner drivers and a faster processing of medical fitness enquiries by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA);
- an investigation into the driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) and the extent to which it is improving the skills and professionalism of drivers in the industry – the industry has argued that the need for drivers to undertake 35 hours of professional training every five years in order to update their CPC is in danger of encouraging older drivers to retire earlier, thus exacerbating the overall shortage of driver;
- any other elements of government policy which might be deterring potential recruits from entering the profession or encouraging qualified drivers to leave; and
- the standard and suitability of roadside amenities for HGV drivers in need of a break during the day and overnight.
A difficult climate
All of this comes at a time when lorry drivers in particular are on the frontline of the current migrant and illegal immigration problems at the country’s border ports.
Not only do British drivers face the danger of stowaways and others attempting to board their vehicles, they may then face stiff financial penalties if the Border Force catches illegal immigrants on the lorries.
According to the county news service Kent Online, penalties issued to lorry drivers found to have illegal immigrants on board have tripled during the last three years. In that time, some 6,500 stowaways have been apprehended and haulage operators have faced penalties of up to £2,000 for each illegal immigrant caught.