The future of logistics is basic

The future of logistics is basic

Director - UK Policy | Freight Transport Association

FTA has been looking at how to deliver a long-term future for our industry in which logistics is flexible and resilient, recognised in its value, optimal in its efficiency and produces zero negativities. One of our biggest campaigns to deliver this future vision is a very basic one: urging action on the poor state of lorry driver facilities. Lorry drivers have legal obligations to take rest for the safety of themselves and all road users, and it is totally unacceptable that in the 21st century our country still expects most of them to stop and sleep in places with no toilet or washing facilities and no security. 

Unless we treat people with respect and dignity, we cannot expect them to work for us, especially in this period of exceptional employment, with levels at the highest since records began in the early 1970s. Potential employees have the choice of working in industries which provide not only basic hygiene facilities but do much more to aid wellbeing and retain staff. It is a competitive world. There are 52,000 vacancies for lorry drivers. People in our country can and are choosing to do other things. 

FTA is often asked to engage in activities to promote the industry to women to fill vacancies and build a stronger, more diverse industry. But these will not succeed unless those basic facilities are in place. Other sectors, such as rail, have found this out already and needed to invest in staff facilities before they could get the proportion of women they employed to increase. In our industry only 1.3 per cent of HGV drivers are female.

The problem is one that is acknowledged by policy makers. A 2017 DfT survey demonstrated there are 1,400 too few HGV parking spaces, so each night this number of lorry drivers is forced to park in areas where they are neither wanted nor catered for. Government promised to provide these new spaces in May 2018, but we have yet to see them delivered.  

We have asked DfT to set up a tracking system so we can monitor delivery of these spaces. Some will be delivered through private sites while two major schemes are being progressed on land owned by Highways England. However, these schemes need local support through the planning process to succeed. The Roads Minister and Planning Minister wrote to local planning authorities in May last year drawing their attention to the need for more lorry parking, but frustratingly all FTA’s attempts to secure an update on progress from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have been ignored.

However, Highways England has taken up this challenge and is developing ‘hot spot’ maps across England to identify specific areas of need and sites where there is potential for new provision that can be included in local plans. FTA will be supporting this. We need this to succeed.  

Without designated places to park with basic hygiene and security, drivers often resort to parking in laybys or residential areas. This gives the impression that nobody cares about all employees across our industry, not just drivers. This substantially reduces our industry’s ability to attract people to the full spectrum of roles logistics has to offer, including the more technological and systems management roles it will need in the future. If logistics is to become a career of choice, then the experiences of our drivers needs to be improved. Without a positive reputation we will be unable to attract the right and sufficient talent to join the industry and secure its future.

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