Driver Shortages and Temporary Driver Recruitment
Like many other things that affect our everyday lives we have a tendency to put things off until tomorrow when we know full well that we should be doing something about them today. One example of this could be given as global warming; another is undoubtedly the driver shortage that impacts the transport and logistics industry and its getting worse.
Is it wholly the transport and logistics industry, the legislators are responsible, we are now in such a dilemma it's going to be difficult to recover? It's a fact that drivers are the backbone of our industry and this has been shown in the recent COVID-19 crisis. It begs the question, why has the market not done enough or more importantly why has so little been done to address the driver shortage problem.
Fact - the number of new drivers entering the freight transport and logistics industry is in decline, and has been for over 25 years.
Fact - general logistics business growth and new European Union legislation have further substantially increased the size of the national LGV driver pool requirement.
So, what are we doing about it? How can we attract more drivers into the industry and what will the future hold if we can't?
Age and Eligibility
The minimum age for a driver of a goods vehicle with a permissible maximum weight (including any trailer or semi-trailer) exceeding 7.5 tonnes is 21 years, this applies whether EC or AETR rules. However, it is reduced to 18 when the vehicle does not exceed 7.5 tonnes permissible maximum gross weight or if the driver is the registered employee of a registered employer of the 'Young Drivers Scheme', or to 17 when the driver is a full or part-time member of the armed forces and the vehicle is used for naval, military or airforce purposes.
Regardless of the fact that since January 2020, Covid-19 has taken its toll and because of it, many companies have folded and those that have survived have shed driving staff.
Even as a result of the above statement, there is still a driver shortage in our industry and undoubtedly many reasons for that. For those companies suffering, as a result, it is a difficult situation to be in, and perhaps not dissimilar to the driver 'catch 22' situation of yesteryear where a driver couldn't get an HGV class 1 (CE) job without the license, but having got the license still couldn't get a job because of a lack of experience.
Companies are today faced with a similar dilemma. Unable to recruit driving staff, they look to recruitment agencies to replace their shortfall with temporary staff whilst the recruitment process continues. However, this process is compromised because there are few (if any) drivers within the location(s) required because they're all employed on the agencies books.
As an employer and finding yourself in this situation, working with the agency in question to determine if any of their drivers are interested in full-time employment with your company is an option. However, taking on drivers directly from an agency usually involves a temp/perm contract of 13 weeks.
If you've decided to work with your local agency to remedy your recruitment problem, and having fully interviewed the drivers(s) interested in joining your company and are satisfied they are exactly what you're looking for, the temp/perm period really doesn't matter.
If however, you're already employing several drivers from an agency and you have a good working relationship with them, the temp/perm period duration can be negotiated down from 13 weeks to possibly 6/8 weeks (or less), subject to:
- The working relationship and annual use of the agency
- Number of drivers currently being used from them
- The length of time the driver(s) in question have already been with you
- The flexibility of the agency management
Using agency drivers because of a local driver shortage is in the majority of cases the only option open to you, but bear in mind this will give you other problems such as:
- Agency drivers do not know your products (your client's products) or the recipient at point of delivery
- This, in turn, can lead to poor productivity
- Which in turn can lead to higher costs and disappointed clients
Many companies have been surveyed over the past decade concerning the shortage of drivers, with most surveys showing the same or similar trends. However, as a result of the expansion of the European Union, there has been an influx of foreign drivers to the UK although these drivers bring with them yet other problems, particularly that of language.
However, with the UK exiting the EU at the end of this year (2020), many drivers have already returned home to their native lands and coupling this to the Covid-19 pandemic, how many will consider returning, especially as the UK has one of the highest Covid-19 death rates in the world.
Recent surveys have indicated the following:
- The majority of companies surveyed say that recruiting drivers is either 'difficult' or very 'difficult'
- The number of ethnic drivers in the workplace is low at around 4% to 5%
- The number of female drivers in the workplace is still very low at between 1% and 2%, although this is slowly improving
Factors behind the driver shortage
The average age of UK truck drivers is circa 55 years. This will not surprise anyone in the UK road haulage industry as it’s been high for many years without any effort on the part of the ‘powers that be’ to take note and do something about it. In view of what we’ve known for many years, what are the main reasons for younger people not joining the industry as truck drivers, and why have successive governments done little or nothing to improve things?
To understand the reasons that affect the recruitment process, it is important to analysis the main factors involved, such as Low Wages, Drivers Hours, the Cost of CPC Training and Lack of Roadside Facilities.
In general, truck drivers don’t earn particularly well when considering the role they have to perform and the toll it takes on their home life. This is especially the case when you compare the income levels and annual wage increases of the service and IT, finance and banking and most especially the construction sectors.
Obviously, increases in driver pay come from the profits of the company the driver(s) work for. Most operators are squeezed by the clients they work upon behalf of in an effort to reduce costs which in turn leads to small profit margins.
It may be the case that driver wages do increase faster than inflation, however, this does not compensate for the long hours, cost of training and poor working conditions which are characteristic of the transport industry.
There has always been an argument on the changes introduced periodically on driver’s hours. The following legislative changes are applicable:
- EC Regulation 561/2006 on drivers’ hours and tachographs
- EU 165/2014 on tachographs and drivers’ hours (repealing Council Reg. (EEC) 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport and amending Reg (EC) 561/2006)
When you add in The Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations 2005, it does nothing to make life any easier, especially as some aspects of it run parallel to EU Hours complicating the situation for many drivers still further.
It’s a complicated business and as a result, many at all levels don’t fully understand the legislation that drives it. The transport industry is about as ‘over-regulated’ as you can get.
Driver CPC training
The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) was introduced and took effect for all bus and coach (PCV) drivers who held a relevant vocational licence (D, D1, D+E and D1+E) gained before 10 September 2008, (including restricted vocational licence D (101) issued after 1991 and D1 (101) issued before 1997); and lorry (LGV) drivers who obtained their licence (C, C1, C+E and C1+E) before 10 September 2009. The aforementioned group of drivers did not need to take the initial qualification as they were deemed to hold 'acquired rights'. However, they still had to complete 35 hours of periodic training to maintain their Driver CPC every 5 years and prior to the expiry date of their driver CPC.
In 2014 many lorry drivers nearing retirement age voted with their feet prior to the renewal of their driver CPC on 9th September 2014 by leaving the industry for good. Many of them took early retirement, others took a complete career change.
It’s quite ironic that had the driver CPC been thought about by the powers that be in Europe, after all, it was a European Union Directive, there wouldn’t have been the same driver shortage within the industry that we have today.
With regard to new drivers replacing them, they face high training costs of up to £3,000+, as well as operators facing higher insurance premiums, with many insurers graduating driver excess premiums based upon the driver’s age. We are aware of big-name insurers charging as much as £4k excess for a driver who is 22 years of age should he have the misfortune of having a road traffic incident.
There have been many surveys carried out over the last decade with varying results. Some of those surveyed said that the government offer little or no training support for those youngsters wanting to start a career in the industry as an HGV driver. Other respondents felt that the industry itself had to take some of the blame, with poor working conditions, pay levels and career opportunities acting as deterrents for young entrants.
Abysmal Roadside Facilities
It is difficult to know what to say about this subject without being downright rude. The ‘so-called’ facilities in the UK for truck drivers is an absolute disgrace and does absolutely nothing to help the driver shortage.
There are too few suitable parking spaces, shower and toilet facilities and those that can be found are invariably not up to standard – welcome to the world of the UK truck driver.
There’s much said in the press about the lack of female truck drivers, is it any wonder when you see the state of some of what they would be expected to put with concerning shower/washing facilities and decent, sensibly priced food.
Without first improving driver facilities, the industry will not attract new people to driver jobs – please read the following from the FTA.
FTA accuses the government of failing to improve toilet facilities for HGV drivers
The FTA has slammed the government for breaking its vow to improve and expand the number of toilet facilities for HGV drivers on the national road network.
The criticism follows an FTA survey which revealed that almost all respondents believe toilet facilities have not improved since the government pledged to upgrade them 18 months ago, with some drivers claiming they had become worse.
Speaking on the UN World Toilet Day (19 November 2019) Elizabeth de Jong, UK policy director, said many of the UK’s HGV drivers are deprived of their legal human right to sanitation as a result of the dearth of toilet facilities on Britain’s motorways and highways.
She called for the government to prioritise the provision of welfare facilities for professional drivers across the UK.
De Jong added: “The logistics sector is the lifeblood of the UK economy, ensuring businesses, schools and hospitals are all stocked with the goods they need to operate. But despite the invaluable contribution HGV drivers provide to the economy, they are often denied access to very basic amenities.
“The inconsistent provision of toilets and other facilities for HGV drivers across the road network is not good enough. Access to hygiene amenities and other welfare services is a basic right for all workers. No other industry would be expected to work without access to toilets, so why should HGV drivers?
“More than 18 months ago, the government vowed to improve and expand the provision of facilities for those charged with keeping Britain trading, but since that promise, amenities have actually become worse," de Jong said.
“In an industry where you are compelled by law to take regular breaks and rest, it is vital drivers have access to these most basic facilities," she added.
Also, read Jenny Tipping’s article: Driver facilities are a sign of respect
(Jenny Tipping is a driver for Manpower Logistics and was a finalist in the 2012 and 2014 everywoman in Transport & Logistics Awards in the Driver of the Year category).
The department responsible for dealing with roadside facilities, truck stops, laybys etc. is the Department for Transport.
This is another government speech lacking in positive substance -
Whereas it is appreciated by many that prior to March 2018, the DVSA had little or no ‘teeth’ to effectively Police the industry, the following will confirm that since that date, the situation has changed. However, is it for the better?
DVSA claims success for drivers’ hour's enforcement boost
The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has released data which it says vindicates the move last year to grant the agency tougher powers to crack down on drivers’ hour's infringements.
Since March 2018, DVSA examiners have had the power, at any single roadside check, to issue on-the-spot fines for up to five drivers’ hour's offences committed over the preceding four weeks, at up to £300 per offence.
The change was first announced in 2017 and means drivers can face fines of up to £1,500 on a single occasion if persistent rule-breaking is uncovered, whether it occurred in Great Britain or elsewhere. Non-GB-resident drivers risk having their trucks immobilised if they do not pay the fines immediately.
The changes have yielded massive dividends, says DVSA. Despite performing over 7,000 fewer roadside enforcement inspections involving a drivers’ hours check in the year since the changes, as compared to the previous year, the total fines issued have risen more than sevenfold.
In the year prior to the changes, the agency issued 4,236 fixed penalties for drivers’ hour's offences, totalling £478,400. But in the first year since the changes, this rose to 19,723 penalties, accruing a total of £3,653,450 for the Treasury.
“Before, our examiners could only issue roadside fines for ongoing drivers’ hour's offences that were still happening at the time of the check,” explained DVSA enforcement policy manager Mark Horton, in a blog post on the government website.
“If they saw any offences before that, they needed to take the driver to court to fine them. It was more difficult and expensive to get a non-UK driver along to these court hearings than a British driver, which posed a real problem.
“Unsurprisingly, being able to cast a wider net had meant we’ve caught more offences.”
He added: “We want to make sure it doesn’t pay to break drivers’ hour’s rules. Being able to issue more fines for more offences sends a clear message – take your breaks.”
Meanwhile, fleet operators expecting the government to take a more relaxed approach to drivers’ hours after Brexit should think again; regulations have now been put in place to transpose EU drivers’ hours into domestic law for a post-Brexit context – [Read More]