The government last week announced positive news on employment, with the numbers of people in work continuing to rise in line with the economic recovery. Whilst this is good news for the country, the driver shortage faced by the transport industry shows no sign of abating, potentially stopping that recovery in its tracks in the near future.
Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association, yesterday highlighted the issue once again, leading an industry delegation to deliver a petition to the Prime Minister, urging the government to act. The RHA are calling for a £150 million fund to support training.
He was quoted as saying: “We warmly welcome the positive news on the employment figures. They are another sign that the UK economy is continuing to strengthen. However, we are suffering from a severe skills shortage in our industry. Failing to address the chronic driver shortage threatens to stop the UK economy recovery in its tracks and it will be a missed opportunity for the Government in its drive to achieve full employment.”
To get a truck license, a person must spend anywhere between £3,000 and £5,000. This is a significant amount of money for people looking to enter the industry, especially when there is no guarantee of success in terms of getting the license, and no job at the end of it, despite the shortage.
The fact that many haulage businesses are small family companies also does not help. Such businesses, and their larger counterparts, operate on small margins, effecting the ability to fund this training themselves. Where training support is offered by an operator, it often comes with long tie-in periods as companies look to protect that investment. This however is unappealing for a person entering into the industry, as they could be tied to one organisation for three to five years.
There is currently no apprenticeship scheme in place for driver training, and no grant’s available either.
The RHA is taking the leading in lobbying government to act, with the petition delivered in time for the emergency budget on the 8th July. Failure to act by the government may not only damage the transport industry, but stifle the economic recovery in the not too distant future.
Image left-to-right: Lesley O’Brien (FreightLink), Matt Allen (PF Whitehead), Richard Burnett (RHA), Peter Eason (ELB Partners Ltd), Steve Bowles (Roy Bowles Transport)