Our outlook on the national driver shortage
It’s no secret that the UK road haulage industry has been suffering the impacts of a mass driver shortage for the last few years, and this unfortunate situation has only been exacerbated by the difficulties brought about by recent political and economical challenges post-Brexit and post-COVID.
At Fagan & Whalley, we’re aware of the challenges facing the industry and we’re taking a proactive approach in tackling them as best we can in our internal processes and our plans for future business development.
“The issue with driver shortages is something that has been bubbling away under the surface for a number of years now, and, unfortunately, we’re now experiencing a period where certain circumstances have aligned to escalate what was once a concern into a real issue within the industry,” says F&W business strategy director, Sam Fagan.
“There are multiple factors contributing to the current situation. Firstly, haulage companies across the country, particularly those who have clients moving stock between the UK and the rest of Europe, have been hit hard by Brexit. In the last 18 months or so, the industry has seen a marked drop in the number of drivers willing to work in the EU, purely due to the complications now involved with travelling between the UK and mainland Europe.
“In addition, every business in the country has been impacted in some way by the Coronavirus pandemic, and as the country is slowly beginning to open up again, we’ve seen an overwhelming increase in demand for our services, which may not be so much of an issue if the industry hadn’t already been reporting a decline in the interest in professional driving as a career for some time now.
“Not only is interest in the industry dwindling, which we believe may, in part, be to do with the appeal of up-and-coming industries which can afford people more flexibility in the way that they work, such as being able to work from home, or work flexible hours, but the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that ensued as a result led to tests for new driver licences being cancelled, meaning the industry last year will have seen retirements as normal, with no new drivers entering the workforce to replace those leaving.
“The concern about driver shortages already existed pre-COVID and pre-Brexit, but it’s a concern which has now grown, and the introduction of the IR35 tax changes have also played a key role in worsening the situation. Initially delayed by one year due to the pandemic, these changes are now hitting firms and drivers at the worst possible time, when the industry is already struggling.
“At Fagan & Whalley, we’re keen to do our part to try and generate more interest in careers in the transport industry. In addition to making continual investments into our fleet and facilities for the comfort and safety of our drivers, we’re also offering competitive rates of pay, and reviewing our internal operations in an effort to relieve the pressure drivers are currently facing as much as possible.
“As an example, our transport teams are in regular contact with clients up and down the country to discuss their collection and delivery schedules, to try and give our teams as much notice as possible in order to plan work and communicate this to our drivers out on the road.
“We also remain committed to maintaining our core company values, a key element of which comes in valuing our people. We recognise that it’s our incredible team of staff that makes us who we are, and we like to make sure that this is acknowledged and reflected within our internal operations as much as possible.
“We’ve also invested in the development and launch of a new scheme, Future-bound, which has been designed to encourage interest in the transport industry and make driving careers more accessible.
“We recognise that the issue with driver shortages will not be fixed overnight and that the processes we’re currently implementing cannot be the end of our efforts. They are, however, a step in the right direction, and we hope that others within our industry will be encouraged to take a proactive approach in tackling the challenges we’re all currently facing.”