Representatives from the UK road haulage industry have revealed the current driver shortage in the UK stands at around 60,000 – and have estimated the figure could rise to a shocking 150,000 by 2020.
In addition, just one per cent of drivers in the UK are under the age of 25.
The figures were revealed as industry representatives briefed the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Road Freight and Logistics as part of the APPG’s ongoing enquiry into the skills shortage in the industry.
Those giving evidence were Kate Lester from Diamond Logistics, Mike Ponsonby from MA Ponsonby, Rod McKenzie from the RHA, and Nick Bithell who leads the Trailblazer Apprenticeship Scheme at the Institute of Apprenticeships and is also HR director at Knights of Old Group.
Sir Mike Penning MP, chair of the Road Freight and Logistics APPG, said: “Damning statistics like this show it is simply outrageous that government is not responding to the very fair asks of the industry to address this problem. Without urgent intervention from the government, the industry is going to be in extreme distress.
“We need to get hard-working and ambitious young people into these jobs. And we need to utilise the talent that’s out there,” he added. “Some 20 per cent of people who leave the military have a HGV licence and leave with skills that are totally relevant to this industry. We need to work harder on schemes to make the industry more attractive to young people and to people who already have the skills we need. It’s a win-win if we get this right.”
RHA MD, Rod McKenzie, said: “In its current form, the Apprenticeship Levy is simply not working. The industry has paid in £280m since 2017 and only been able to draw out £12m. The reason is simple: the Department for Education and the Institute for Apprenticeships are dragging their heels in approving the Apprenticeship our industry needs.
“This is an industry that is working to the tightest margins and yet is being made to pay into a pot of money it can never access.”
Commenting on reasons why the industry is struggling to attract new recruits Kate Lester, CEO of Diamond Logistics, said: “Drivers are unfairly viewed as the pariahs of society and that needs to change. Our drivers are our ambassadors; they are an indispensable resource in our industry – an industry that is the lifeblood of the country.
“Government should be championing their contribution so the wider public understands how vital they are and show them the respect they deserve.”
Mike Ponsonby reflected on levels respect not just from the public and government, but also at drop-off points. “There have been occasions where my drivers have been refused use of the toilet at the delivery point,” he said. “This is disgraceful and a clear breach of the ‘Welfare Regulations Occupier’s’ duty to visiting drivers.
“We need more overnight parking and public toilets on the road network, because at the moment, this lack of public facilities is making drivers leave the industry, with few new drivers joining to replace them. Therefore, I would strongly urge the government to invest in new facilities,” he concluded.