Saturday, 29 November 2014

Trade groups: driver shortage ‘could mean empty shelves at Christmas’ . . .


Trade groups: driver shortage ‘could mean empty shelves at Christmas’

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Consumers could face the prospect of empty shelves come the festive season if urgent action is not taken, due to a ‘massive’ shortage of truck drivers, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has said.

“We are pressing hard for the Treasury to make funding available so that would-be lorry drivers can take the vocational driving and related tests that they so desperately need in order to pass and legally drive a heavy goods vehicle,” said RHA’s new chief executive, Richard Burnett, pictured.

“The economy relies massively on an effective logistics industry. If that efficiency is to be maintained, it is vital that funding be made available now. It should be paid directly to those operating in the haulage and logistics industry and be nationally available.

“We also propose that it be time-limited. We know that some funding is available – but right now it is inaccessible.
“Such a scheme would ensure that UK growth and wealth creation is not impeded by a serious shortage of lorry drivers.

“We consider this to be the most effective and appropriate solution in the short term to an issue that will challenge the industry far beyond the coming weeks running up to Christmas.”

Burnett continued: “Ours is an industry with an ageing workforce. With 45 thousand HGV drivers due to retire in the next two years, and more set to leave for medical reasons or because they have jobs elsewhere, it’s clear that unless Government recognises and addresses this critical issue, the economic growth will slow down dramatically.”

He added that, despite the industry having “ridden the financial storm” – with 2013 seeing the first increase in trucks on British roads since 2007 – the shortfall currently stands at an estimated 40,000 drivers.

“Do the maths – there are simply not enough drivers to keep the economy moving. The RHA has very strong support for this position from members with transport companies of all sizes – small, medium and very large.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has previously voiced disquiet about the likely impact of the driver shortage on consumers over Christmas – with 82 per cent of transport managers attending an FTA conference in September saying the shortfall was a massive problem.

FTA skills policy development manager Sally Gilson, FTA’s Skills Policy Development Manager said: “Not all Christmas presents arrive by magic. The ones we order online and buy in shops for friends and relatives, along with all the food and drink we buy in for parties and Christmas lunch, are delivered every year by the logistics industry.

“This massive peak in demand leads to heavy use of agency drivers, and FTA members are really worried that these drivers may not be legally ready to drive when they are needed.

“FTA members are telling us they have genuine concerns over their ability to deliver Christmas this year. The pool of agency drivers is just not there, and with the economy improving a greater number is needed. However, this is not just a seasonal issue – our members recruiting full-time positions are struggling for applicants.”

The association blamed both Driver CPC and the cost of licence acquisition for the shortage.

“When you look at the cost it’s no wonder would-be drivers are not coming forward; add to this the insurance problems for younger drivers and industry is finding it hard to bring young blood in,” Gilson continued.

“FTA is asking why can’t vocational training have the same loan system as university students? If we are going to help the skills shortage, government must not belittle vocational training.”

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