Challenges in the Recruitment of Lorry Drivers
For a number of years, there have been concerns in the HGV industry about driver numbers. This has arisen as a result of an ageing workforce, and a lack of new entrants coming through to replace those who leave the sector – either because of retirement, or to pursue different careers.
Retirement or career switching has been particularly prevalent in recent years, with the implementation of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (“CPC”). Changes to medical requirements for vocational driver licensing in respect of health issues such as diabetes and sleep apnoea also disproportionately affect the industry, given the age of the driver workforce.
At the other end of the spectrum, not enough young people are considering driving as a career option. There are several reasons for this. These include the cost of obtaining licences, a poor sector image, driver medical requirements, and poor quality driver facilities.
BREXIT is also likely to have an impact – a recent Freight Transport Association report highlights the industry’s reliance on EU nationals, with more than 30,000 – 10 percent of the entire driver workforce – currently employed in the UK.
To add to the industry’s woes, there is uncertainty around the proposed HMRC change to overnight allowance rules – this has remained at £26.20 for a sleeper cab since 2013, and HMRC has suggested that hauliers will be expected to be required to get an agreement from HMRC to make such payments tax and NI free, and to carry out random checks on their drivers that the expense is being incurred. It’s unclear when – or indeed whether – this requirement will become law.
So, what is being done about the problem?
The Freight Transport Association has campaigned on various fronts:-
- Student style loans for vocational training
- Better driver facilities
- Quicker turnaround of medical queries by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
- A campaign to raise awareness of the logistics sector – in partnership with the Department for Education
- Members to come together to promote the logistics industry and engage with the public
Key issues identified in the Freight Transport Association skills summit in March included apprenticeships and the Apprenticeship Levy, engaging with young people, attracting women to the industry and industry image.
Some headway is being made – pay rates have been reported as increasing at twice the rate of inflation.
In addition, the Government has announced that a new scheme will be introduced in April 2017 which will provide funding for apprentice lorry drivers and the cost of licence acquisitions. This will apply to LGV drivers (amongst others). The latest press releases suggest that a company could receive up to £4,500 per apprentice with an additional £2,000 for 16–18 year olds, though these amounts will vary according to the size of the company and the levels of its co-investment.
So, in short, there is still much to be done.