The shortage of HGV drivers and its impact on deliveries, that has been in the public eye of late, is actually a global issue which has persisted for almost two decades, but has been delicately managed within the supply chain industry, to protect shippers and their customers.
Brexit and tax changes, encouraged up to 20k European drivers to return to their home countries, while years of underinvestment in HGV drivers and the impact of lockdowns on driving tests, has contributed to a shortage of 100k HGV drivers.
The impact of this shortage, that is touching domestic delivery and rubbish collections, is being felt in every business vertical and is particularly pronounced across the freight sector.
The average haulage movement now takes 3.7 times as long to administer, communicate, and organise, with the impact of all the component events this year, as it did pre-pandemic and in 2020.
The air freight sector is experiencing issues with collections and deliveries and there are significant capacity issues for pan-European transport. But it is the sea freight sector and in particular the movement of containers that has been hot hardest, as drivers move to less hectic roles within the retail sector.
BIFA, the RHA, Logistics UK and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) are among the trade associations that have – without success – urged the government to take measures, including relaxing visa regulations, to alleviate the road haulage problem.
The government did, last week, announce that HGV driving tests will be overhauled, which will make around 20,000 more HGV driving tests available every year and mean drivers can gain their licence and enter the industry more quickly.
However, the announced measures are unlikely to make a significant difference if they cannot be implemented in time for the Christmas peak, with DVSA, DVLA and the wider training industry needing time to apply the changes and adapt their operations.
Our transport team is increasingly challenged in locating sufficient haulage resource and even booking three or four weeks in advance, from main ports, is no guarantee that the contractor will not cancel the booking without notice.
We manage these difficult situations every day, and while there are no statistics to demonstrate the scale of the issues, it it is constant and demanding.
Our transport team is dedicated to supporting our customers and ensuring that we overcome all our transport challenges, with imagination, creativity and an unwavering commitment to do everything we can to meet deadlines.
Hauliers have been increasing driver pay rates, offering retention and loyalty bonuses and improving working conditions in a bid to halt the outflow of experienced personnel to retailers, which is being reflected in the costs incurred and may reflect a longer term trend to make the industry more attractive to new generation of drivers.
We operate our own fleet of commercial vehicles and work with a number of selected haulage partners at key locations to give us access to equipment and drivers, for national movements and local collections and deliveries.