Drivers

Is there really a national shortage of drivers?

Qualified drivers are in great demand. But, why is there suddenly a dearth of drivers? Is it because numbers have fallen or has demand simply heightened in recent years?

There aren’t enough drivers…and it’s going to get worse!

The facts suggest that yes there definitely is a national shortage of drivers and many forecasters suggest the situation is only going to worsen in the coming years. But, why? Well for a start, working hours can be long, pay scales haven’t always been the best and certain limiting government restrictions certainly haven’t helped. Negative publicity regarding issues like the one in Calais have also been damaging to the industry. But, three main factors may hold the key to the diminishing numbers of drivers.

Demographic shift

The average age of lorry drivers is generally higher than in other industries and with seemingly fewer younger recruits this is a major worry for logistics firms. The cultural gap between those established in the sector and those just entering has never seemed so wide, and the dependency on the older drivers is going to place increasing pressure on companies. Many experienced drivers will be looking to retire in the next 10-20 years and there simply aren’t the numbers coming through to replace them.

Industry competition

The increasing number of logistics companies over the last 40 years has heightened competition within the marketplace immensely. Generally, improved links to mainland Europe have also opened up markets that didn’t exist previously. With more competition has come a decrease in rates and profit margins, which inevitably creates the knock-on effect to drivers of fewer benefits being on offer. The developments in benefits that have been attractive to workers in other sectors hasn’t materialised to the same degree in transport and so skilled drivers have been lost to other roles within organisations or other industries completely. With competition for drivers at a premium, this has lead to a great churn of qualified professionals within the trade. Quite often if companies manage to win a large contract they will temp drivers from other companies with incentives to make the move across. Although this can often be a great benefit to the drivers themselves it does create uncertainty and instability within the industry.

Qualifications

Regulations within the logistics industry have certainly been tightened up in recent years and it can limit the types of vehicle that certain people are able to drive. It can be a costly business too, having to fund the attainment of the qualifications especially if you don’t have an organisation that are willing to foot the bill. This certainly limits the ability of younger people being able to enter the industry until they can afford to gain the qualifications. Although, given the shortage of drivers anyway, it’s likely that people will be able to find a job at the end of it, there’s no guarantee.

What next?

Aside from the apparent doom and gloom, the industry is seeking to actively address the issue, although such initiatives can take time to take hold. It’s important that younger candidates are attracted into the profession, making it a feasible proposition for a career. There might be a lot of talk about delivery drones and driverless vehicles but the need for human drivers is going to be around for a long time yet. Expect to see schemes such as high paid apprenticeships or a review of the cost of gaining qualifications to try and entice a younger candidate demographic.