Statistics released by road transport software provider Aquarius IT have indicated a marked increase in the number of agency drivers used by the firm’s UK customers during the Covid-19 pandemic – with 74 per cent more being employed in November and December as compared to the previous year.
The figures are based on data from the company’s ClockWatcher Elite tachograph analysis package. First indications of the upsurge appeared during the trading period August-October 2020, which saw a 30 per cent rise in the number of agency drivers used as compared to 2019.
Then in November and December, a traditionally busy trading period for Aquarius customers during the run-up to Christmas, the year-on-year increase leapt to 74 per cent.
Aquarius director Guy Reynolds suggested that the rise in agency driver use from August likely reflected the industry’s attempts to recover from the first pandemic lockdown, as well as the economic uncertainty driven by both Covid and Brexit.
“The use of agency drivers during times of economic uncertainty makes perfect business sense,” he said.
“As compared to full-time drivers they offer operators a flexible way of supplementing an existing workforce in line with demand; however, aligned with this, this surge in agency drivers also sadly suggests that many driver redundancies have occurred during the pandemic – we know first-hand for customers involved in non-essential industries that these have, and continue to be, very difficult times.”
Aquarius points out that the figures are reflective of statistics from other sectors, citing the Recruitment and Employment Confederation which reported in October that the level of anticipated agency worker use had already recovered to pre-pandemic levels from May to July.
The report also suggested firms were more likely to hire contingent workers than permanent staff during the following three months as a pandemic recovery measure.