How can haulage businesses address the skills shortage?

 

Heavy goods vehicle (“HGV”) drivers, especially those manning articulated (“artic”) vehicles, carry out skilled work which requires specialist licences. As a result, recruiting and retaining staff is a widely recognised challenge in today’s road transport and logistics sector.

Research from the Close Brothers Business Barometer, a survey of 900 SME decision makers, found that more than half of those in the transport and haulage sector are concerned because they believe there is skills gap.

At the end of 2019, a Road Haulage Association (“RHA”) survey also found that the skills shortage is a priority concern for their members. They estimate that there is currently a shortfall of around 60,000 heavy goods vehicle drivers, which could have a significant impact on the British economy. 

There are also concerns that this issue will intensify. The median age of HGV drivers is currently estimated to be over 55, with this aging workforce leaving the industry and fewer young people in the UK opting for professional driving as a career. In addition, many businesses rely on workers from the EU and elsewhere to fill empty slots and there is some uncertainty around how this could change under new immigration rules.

However, while industry output and deliveries could slow significantly if the labour gap increases, there are some measures that businesses can take to prepare for the future and ensure their employees are well-supported.

Champion apprenticeships and training

Offering training and education to equip your workforce with the practical knowledge they need can be an effective way to meet labour requirements. Initiatives which enable people to gain their Category C or C+E licences could help you to unlock existing potential in your business or recruit new hauliers.

Depending on the size of your business, the government offers support and funding to train new drivers. The apprenticeship levy covers most of the cost of training an apprentice for the Large Goods Vehicle (“LGV”) Driver Standard (Category C licence), as well as other roles in the logistics sector.

Similarly, there are schemes to help existing employees upskill. The Warehouse to Wheels programme provides a framework to train staff so that they can drive large vehicles. It gives those joining the industry in the warehouse or similar a chance to see how they can progress within the industry.

Close Brothers have also worked together with the RHA to help tackle the driver shortage with an apprenticeship scheme. The programme aimed to help SMEs secure the skills they need for future growth by helping to fund apprentice’s training.

Provide high-quality working conditions

The provision of high-quality vehicles and working conditions is vital to make HGV driving appealing to more people. To this end, individual businesses should ensure that they have up-to-date, appropriate and safe vehicles available for the jobs they undertake.

Effective fleet management can help businesses to manage complex operations and ensure vehicles are moving smoothly. Using modular fleet management services, including tyre management, breakdown management, maintenance and servicing, could give your businesses the support needed to deliver excellent labour conditions and help you to attract and retain staff.

Support outreach programmes

Bringing more young people to the industry is vital for long-term success. There are several organisations and programmes in the UK which aim to educate potential drivers about opportunities and increase skills levels.

Think Logistics, for example, engages with young people to explain what the logistic and haulage sector actually does and promote careers. Along with supporting companies, its overall goal is to work with businesses to create a sustainable talent pipeline.

Operate a flexible fleet model

In today’s rapidly change and often uncertain market, it is prudent to have a business model that offers the flexibility that you need.

Using a rental solution can provide the option to modify your fleet as required and give you some protection against high costs or depreciation if you cannot operate all of your vehicles. With the right contract hire, rental or leasing solution for your business, you could improve flexibility, reduce running costs, and facilitate vehicle maintenance.

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