Tuesday 16 July 2019

Solving the logistics skills shortage

odonovan1_lowres Jacqueline O’Donovan, managing director of O’Donovan Waste Disposal, offers her take on how industry should seek to inspire the next generation

In July, a report from the House of Commons transport committee shed a startling light on the shortfall of skilled drivers within the road haulage sector, with estimations being between 45,000-60,000. At the time, I spoke out about how I hoped this announcement would act as an incentive to the government to help channel new recruits into the sector.

Our industry has just celebrated National Lorry Week, coined by the Road Haulage Association to transform the way the industry projects itself and is perceived. The theme of this year’s awareness week was ‘The Next Generation’.

Never has there been a better time for our industry to push for change and help young people at school and university to realise the range of career opportunities available to them within logistics. It is our responsibility to educate the next generation about the huge contribution of road haulage companies to the economy. Generating excitement is how we’ll inspire, and inspiration will be our tool for solving the skills shortage.

To put it into context, collectively the road transport industry employs over 1.7m people in the UK, contributing £75 billion to the economy, making it fifth largest industry in the UK. Outside of the industry, this is often overlooked and in some cases not even considered.

This may be because, historically, lorry drivers’ duties were much vaster, whereas nowadays their role is strictly driving, leaving a wide range of job opportunities that are attractive to both men and women.

odonovan2_lowresThe RHA is calling for companies with HGV fleets to embrace their #LoveTheLorry campaign, and a lorry’s importance cannot be overlooked; 85 per cent of everything consumed in the UK is carried by a lorry at some stage in the supply chain. These trucks contribute 35 per cent (£5.7 billon) in fuel duty alone to HM Treasury each year. There is a huge opportunity for jobs and career progression in an industry that is quite literally driving our economy.

So how do we introduce young people to these roles? Apprenticeships are a great option for starters. Under the current arrangements for apprenticeships, there is no support from the government, with beliefs that people should pay to get their own licences, even though courses cost £3,000, plus a £230 fee for the test.

This lack of support needs to be addressed, as there is only so much the industry can do by itself.  The RHA has made a great start by engaging with the Department for Work and Pensions and creating its own apprenticeship scheme; I’d like to see more of this across the industry.

One solution would be to pay apprentices to train with a driver on the road to build knowledge of skills such as seasonal driving; proper training requires a minimum of six months dedicated to it, so our industry has a responsibility to provide these opportunities.

In addition, by increasing government funding into the recruitment side of the industry, perhaps through a student loan, we will be able to search for new drivers, diversify the industry and help to reduce youth unemployment.

Yet while the government has a role to play, not all the pressure should fall on them. A key part of the skills shortage is the current gender imbalance in the logistics sector. With only eight per cent of the 400,000 people holding both an LGV license and a driver CPC being female, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of our industry to make a conscious effect to attract more women.

Although government funding will be a small incentive for female workers, companies should actively encourage the search for women drivers and managers and give them fresh impetus to enter an industry currently dominated by men. Times have changed in the industry – job opportunities for women are there to be snapped up, long distance truck stops have facilities suitable for women… We need to help them realise this.

odonovan3_lowresThe starting point for this? Education. From a young age, children are given certain expectations as to what is classified as a male job and what is female. We need to educate children from school age that there are more options available to them than they might have initially realised.

I’ve worked with incredibly talented women who were unaware of the career prospects in the sector before they started. By taking on mentoring roles, hosting talks and collaborating with educational institutions, we can address this issue and hopefully raise the profile of the hard-working women in the industry.

Another reason for hauliers struggling to employ those under the age of 25 is because of the difficulty they have had getting insurance for their more inexperienced drivers.

But there’s a solution to this – if the whole industry implements clearly planned and supervised training programmes which can be monitored, logged and reported on, insurance companies will be more inclined to listen and we’ll see younger drivers able to be trained and carrying out the role.

Although I have emphasised the need to encourage more drivers, it is important that we continue to maintain high levels of training. For me, safety training is the most important aspect of the job, as we are responsible for our drivers’ safety alongside those of the vulnerable road users we share the roads with.

London and other cities are ever-changing and as an industry we need to keep up with these changes. There has been a lot of scrutiny on London drivers recently, and although cyclist deaths were down by 12 per cent year-on year in 2015 from 2014 – the lowest figure on record, with cyclists numbers increasing – there is still so much more we can do together to reduce this figure even further.

I personally deliver the training at my company, as we designed our own in-house Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) which we offer out to other companies.

These changes aren’t going to happen overnight, and with the uncertainty of Brexit’s impact on recruiting talent from abroad still to be seen, we will need to work together to attract new talent and well trained drivers.



  1. Steve W says:

    This industry needs to stop being perceived as a horrible job for horrible people. Drivers can’t make that happen, only employers can, by offering decent pay and conditions to people who work long, unsociable hours and have to put up with intolerable levels of bull**** from customers, enforcement, employers and the general road-using public.

    I am sick of it. I have had an absolute gutful. If this industry is in decline it’s because of the people who run it. People who think they own your every waking minute. People who expect you to break the law. Which law? Any law. Every law you can think of. Just for their convenience. “You’re not allowed to take a break on site, go somewhere else. Strapping loads? Nobody else does that, you’re causing us problems, you’re holding us up. We’ll have to talk to your boss. All the other drivers tip and load on break, why don’t you?”

    Working 60+ hours a week and being constantly pressured to do more. “All the other drivers work weekends, you’re not a team player.” Doing 9 hour turnarounds at base and that INCLUDES your commute to and from work. Getting home, getting a shower, something hot to eat, then trying to get as much sleep as you can before it’s time to get up at stupid o’clock and going in and doing it all over again.

    Why do you think our diet is so terrible? Why do you think our health is so awful?

    Having to take out the first unit back and then find yourself having to night out with no kit. “You haven’t got time to be taking that gear around, putting it in and out of cabs. Get on with it you’re already late.” Having to night out with no food, no water, no sleeping bag, no washing kit, no change of clothes.

    I was once told by a director, “It’s just the same as sleeping in your car.” Oh really? One: I have never slept in my car in my life. Two: you wouldn’t work a 14/15hr shift, ‘sleep’ nine hours in your car and then work another 14/15hrs would you? Would you? With no kit? Really??

    This used to be a good job. A respectable job where ordinary decent working people could earn pretty good money and support a family. A driver could support his partner and children on the wage he brought in. One partner earned the money, one looked after the home. It was an agreement, a bargain that required both parties to do their bit, but it worked. After years now of declining wages and living standards and the huge rise in living costs, especially housing, many – or most- families need two full time wage earners to make ends meet. How can you look after a family when the driver is working ridiculous hours? Not knowing his start or finish time, or even if he’ll get home. It puts intolerable pressure on the non-driver. No wonder this industry is strewn with the wreckage of failed relationships, because something has to give. It’s your kid’s birthday? Parent’s evening? Tough. Your wife’s had a hard day? Tough. You’re nighting out.” The human cost is appalling.

    No one cares. Keep treating drivers like dog****, let’s see what happens shall we? “Oh but they love it, they wouldn’t have it any other way.”

    Yes we would. We’d love to be treated with respect and decency, but we’re just not getting that. We are human. We are actually human beings. Nobody really thinks that, but we are.


    • Pete Shepherd says:

      Steve – An EXCELLENT post.

      I agree with all that you have said. Unfortunately I don’t see change. I now deliver DCPC training and meet new and different drivers every week – the story is the same from most.

      To be honest, the only drivers telling a different story seem to be those working for a company with a Restricted Licene – so not ‘hauliers’ as such. Most general haulage drivers would write exactly what you have written.

      The issues facing the industry have been caused by those running the industry and I cannot see it improving. Putting Facilities and the way drivers are treated to one side – PAY seems to be the main issue. A 44t Artic driver offered £7.20 per hour! I have a coach driver on a course this week who is on £7.20 an hour with no overtime rate.

      There again, as long as these blinkered operators can get a driver from another country who is more than happy to be paid as much as £7.20 an hour, work all hours, possibly illegally – why would they pay more?

      However – I do think drivers can be their own worst enemy. I would not allow myself to be treated in the way some of them are. When drivers start standing up to the worst operators this may drive change.

  2. Ben Twilley says:

    Thanks Steve, saved me a lot of typing.
    Training? it’s employers who need training in how to treat people, not drivers.

  3. jimmy says:

    Well said Steve, If you get the Government to pay for training young people will not take the crap that is dished out to LGV drivers.
    Example fork lift truck training £450 refresher training every three years £120 ( no additional costs for medicals, digi cards.driver CPC training) ,
    Rates of pay £8.00 £13.00 – 8hr shifts overtime when you want it. no getting stopped by DVSA or police for doing your Job
    LGV CE training as mentioned in above story £3000. Rates of pay £8.00 £13.00 (unless you work for an agency that wants you to set up a limited company and go self employed (another con)
    start time look into your crystal ball finish time look into the same crystal ball.
    What the employers need to look at is the number of people that have LGV and PCV licences and they will see that there is no shortage of qualified drivers. Just people who have had the good sense to get out of the driving seat and taken a job without the stress and know there Start and finish times, I am a qualified LGV CE (Old HGV class 1) that now drives a fork lift for a living, no stress, I don’t need to worry about speed cameras, DVSA or the police when I am doing my Job and my employer has to look after my welfare arrangements (no looking for a carrier bag drivers will know what I mean I pity women drivers as they cant use the front wheel in a layby for a call of nature)
    The industry needs to wake up, The Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802 limited the number of hour that children could do to 12 hrs. It is now 2016 and we have started to go backwards long hours for low wages. Even the EU driver have started to wake up to the poor conditions and are starting to get out of the industry

  4. Jez Baker says:

    There is no shortage of HGV license holders. Companies who pay fair wages, offer good working conditions & treat their staff with respect have no problems recruiting drivers. the hostility Police VOSA & the state display towards drivers is another issue & has lead to a siege mentality developing with many drivers.

    I have a very simple solution to the driver shortage, Stop treating drivers like donkeys & pay them a fair wage.
    So why isn’t this happening? Decision makers within the industry should stop pointing the finger & look in the mirror

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