At the time of writing, the United Kingdom has an estimated shortage of some 60,000 heavy and light goods vehicle (HGV / LGV) drivers.
Furthermore, as the workforce ages, some estimates put the number of potential retirees over the next few years at 40,000 and as of now, they’re not being replaced. Terrifyingly, there are actually more Managing Directors in the transport sector than there are drivers aged 25 or younger.
It’s perfectly possible that, by around the year 2020, there could be a shortage of 100,000 drivers or thereabouts.
Some are referring to this as a pending crisis.
Strangely, there does not appear to be any accepted consensus as to how this shortage has come about. Some argue that it is:
- an inevitable consequence of the more vibrant economy that has come to the fore more recently;
- a failure of the industry itself to get to grips with structured training, career development and recruitment;
- ongoing difficulties in attracting significant numbers of women into HGV / LGV work;
- a failure to encourage young people to consider vocational training and work in the distribution industry, due to undue government emphasis being placed on higher education and what might be broadly called ‘office jobs’;
- the effects of the vast growth in online selling, as far fewer people now go into conventional ‘brick and mortar’ shops to buy things due to the attractions of the internet. That means that far more vehicles are now required to deliver all those products that 5 or 10 years ago, consumers would have transported themselves from the shops.
Whatever the merits or otherwise of these individual points may be, it’s clear that something needs to be done.
The government has set up a taskforce to look into both the causes of this problem and more importantly, what solutions are on the table.
At the moment, the industry and government together are investing in recruitment campaigns and information provision, all with the objective of trying to increase the numbers of people that view lorry driving as an attractive career.
That is to be welcomed but there are also a few problems to be addressed at the same time. For example:
- although not exactly an easy challenge, the current largely male-dominated and ‘macho culture’ of the industry will need to be changed if increasing numbers of women are going to be persuaded to seek a career in this domain;
- some of the current inhibitors that can make it difficult for newly qualified drivers to find their first job, also need to be looked at closely and resolved. Examples include the reluctance of some employers to take on inexperienced and newly qualified drivers even though appropriate HGV insurance for younger drivers is available.
The big attractions of driving an HGV
In theory, it should not be difficult to persuade large numbers of people to consider this as a job direction.
The attractions here are very substantial:
- in 2016, in the southeast of England, lorry drivers with extensive experience could earn up to £35,000 per annum; Given the ongoing forecast shortages and the basic laws of supply and demand, it’s hard not to see the remuneration side increasing fast over the years ahead;
- many people value the relative freedom of being out on the road and not being part of office politics. Not having someone constantly looking over your shoulder can also be very appealing;
- notwithstanding some HMRC concerns over self-employed drivers being de-facto employees, this is still a route to quickly establishing your own successful business.
The position within the industry seems ripe for attracting lots of younger entrants who are keen to have a degree of entrepreneurial freedom and reward that they might struggle to achieve elsewhere. It’s important though that the industry gets its act together to remove some of those above-mentioned obstacles.