Driver shortage could triple by 2020, MPs hear

Driver shortage could triple by 2020, MPs hear

The driver shortage could rise to 150,000 by 2020, the Road Haulage Association has warned. 

Rod McKenzie, Managing Director of the Road Haulage Association, told the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Road Freight and Logistics that the current driver shortage of around 60,000 could rise to 150,000 by 2020. 

“The concern is, we could be 150,000 drivers short by 2020, tripling the shortage” he said, “and added to that is age of drivers in the UK, the average age of a driver is mid-50s, just 1% of drivers are under 25”.

The oral evidence session was held as part of the APPG’s ongoing enquiry into the skills shortage in the industry. Other industry representatives giving evidence included Kate Lester of Diamond Logistics, Mike Ponsonby of M.A. Ponsonby, 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 are 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. 20% 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.’’  

Rod McKenzie added: ‘’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.

“Added to that, we have been waiting for over three years to hear whether the Department for Transport will back our Road to Logistics programme. We are asking for £1m to kickstart this valuable initiative to work side by side with funds from industry and yet we hear nothing back. We are just being passed from pillar to post.”

Commenting on reasons why the industry is struggling to attract new recruits, Kate Lester 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 that the wider public understand how vital they are and show them the respect that they deserve.”

Mike Ponsonby reflected on levels of respect not just from the public and government but also at drop-off points and said: “There have been occasions where my drivers have been refused use of the toilet at the delivery point. This is disgraceful and a clear breach of the ‘Welfare Regulations Occupier’s’ duty to visiting drivers. 

He continued: “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, as truck drivers are the unsung heroes of the road transport industry and keep supermarket shelves full”. 

Nick Bithell said: “Ultimately, we have an apprenticeship that isn’t working for our industry and I want to see that changed. This inquiry gives us the platform we need to present a united voice and clear list of asks from Government.”