Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Shortage of UK driving staff could bring £74bn transportation industry to a standstill

Recruiters predict a 10% increase in driving staff demand while the sector suffers a low availability of candidates

Research from supply management specialist Comensura reveals that the £74bn UK transportation industry could become gridlocked due to a growing driver shortage, largely caused by an ageing workforce and young candidates being dissuaded by the cost of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC).

Half of specialist driver recruiters cite a low candidate availability, coupled with the rising demand that creates a staffing gap in the sector. Availability is the lowest for Moffat, HIAB and ADR drivers- with up to nine out of ten recruiters saying that there’s a low availability for drivers of these vehicles, while in contrast nearly half claim that there is an excess of standard van driver availability.

Around half of recruiters claim that the time it takes to fill a driving role has increased by over a week compared to 12 months ago, suggesting that the increasing lack of candidate availability is consuming more time for the sector and reducing efficiency. Two out of five recruiters say that the time that it takes for a candidate to register with an agency and to be ‘cleared to work’ has increased by a week too, showing that added bureaucracy can lengthen the process of allocating candidates to jobs. The escalation of pay rates can complicate the process too, with four out of five recruiters claiming that candidates demanding higher pay adds to the challenge.

Around three quarters of respondents claim that the introduction of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) is another challenge in recruitment; this is the £2,000 qualification that all bus, coach and lorry drivers must pass before working. The demand for higher pay could be due to the considerable cost of the course that drivers must pay for and then go through regular renewals to remain qualified.

Over 60% of LGV drivers are 45 years old or above, and the average age of an LGV driver is 53, meaning that workers in this sector represent an ageing workforce and many are nearing retirement. 

Four out of five recruiters cite newly qualified candidates getting work experience as a challenge when recruiting drivers, showing that experienced candidates are valued much more highly than those at entry level, a factor that could be hindering younger generations from advancing their skills.

Over half of recruiters also say that it is a challenge finding drivers able to do manual work: another factor that dissuades young people to enter the profession, in addition to uncomfortable working conditions, such as lack of lavatory facilities, and the lifestyle impacts of long and difficult shifts.

Comensura recommends the following five points to help businesses with driving requirements narrow the gap between the supply of drivers and demand:

  1. Find a balanced pay rate: Establish what the average pay rate is for drivers and try to match it for your staff. But equally, determine how much you can afford to pay them. By finding a balance between the two, you can attract candidates while not paying them over the odds.
  2. Look at the long-term: Forecast your needs over the next 12 months, taking into account workers’ holidays and times when demand is high.
  3. Consider the company’s wider picture: Ensure that you have realistic expectations of your drivers and don’t promise your clients anything that the driving staff can’t deliver.
  4. Contact recruitment agencies promptly: Procure the candidates you need as early as possible to maintain a constant flow of staff.
  5. Look within the organisation: Instead of looking externally for candidates, see if there is anyone internal to fill the vacant roles. Carry out in-house training to make individuals who already work for you suitable, which you may be able to do by gaining support funding.

Jon Milton, Business Development Director at Comensura commented on the findings: “The entire logistics industry is worth more than £74 billion to the UK economy and employs around 2.2 million people in over 196,000 companies, so it’s playing a big part in helping our economy recover. It seems vital that the sector attracts more young people and equips them with the skills to become competent professional drivers so that it isn’t held back in the future by a lack of skilled workers.

Jon Milton continued: “It’s worrying that the driving sector is suffering from staff shortages and that the majority of recruiters believe it will increase. But provided that organisations carry out our recommended guidance, they can effectively manage their demand to ensure that they recruit the right number of candidates when they need them, which will help to minimise driver shortages. A review of the industry as a whole is in order to consider whether it’s qualifying drivers in the right way and how well it’s attracting people to enter the profession.

The research surveyed specialist recruitment agencies, from the largest well-known agencies to local, niche SMEs, contracted to supply temporary drivers of all grades and other transportation staff.