The issue of a driver shortage has been with the industry for many years so I am surprised that the real causes are not more generally addressed.
Should the debate not focus more on the quality, focus and willingness of the industry to TRAIN DRIVERS and invest in technology that will support such training?
Commitment to RELEVANT driver training has long been an expense that has had insufficient focus for many operators and this lack of focus and commitment has now come home to roost. This, in my opinion, is a major reason for the shortage of competent drivers, together with organisational and cultural obstacles towards the implementation of the necessary technology to support and measure driver competence and development.
Training is the responsibility of the industry and if the top 10,000 operators were to train just 4 drivers a year then the problem could be solved. There are still nearly 80,000 O Licence holders in the UK, so 12.5% of them should not find this such an onerous task.
With regard to where to find them, why not start with a more positive recruitment campaign amongst the many recently laid off steel workers and military staff? How much communication has been made with schools and sixth form colleges? Not every 18-21 year old wants to go to University and the role of the truck driver has changed radically over the last ten years and can provide a very interesting career in transport and logistics.
Technology can help bring about this recruitment challenge.
The average cost of gaining a class 1 licence is circa £3,000. This is a significant investment but by training a driver capable of driving to a Microlise B standard, 0.5mpg can be saved and this, with other improvements in terms of tyre wear and accident damage, will more than cover the cost in year one.
The average Euro5/6 vehicle is a very modern place in which to work. Truck drivers are the face of the company to many millions of home delivery users and play a vital role in keeping the economy growing.
With professional training and induction to the industry programme, young drivers can not only earn more than the “living wage” but also start on a career ladder that offers security and job satisfaction. A modern truck driver not only has commercial responsibility but also social and environmental responsibility.
Technology contained within modern trucks can provide very clear measures of successful development and can provide employers not only with cost effective staff but also the chance to recruit and grow the next generation of Transport Managers, which if not carefully managed will become the next demographic time bomb to hit the industry.
It is time for the industry to stop moaning about the driver shortage and start look into more professional ways to recruit the next generation. It is easy to blame the Government for lack of apprenticeship schemes, or the cost of training and insurance, but these hurdles can be overcome.
The recent article in Motor Transport that highlighted the approach that Downtons have taken with regard to solving their driver shortage is a very good example of self help and how the use of technology is providing the enabling tool by which all training effectiveness can be measured.
Some transport operators are working hard to address the challenge – maybe it’s time for a driver recruitment campaign to become a major Motor Transport award.