Working conditions for drivers can also be poor, with a lack of adequate truck-stop facilities for those taking statutory break and rest periods while on the road. At some delivery sites, drivers are not always allowed to use the canteen or toilets, despite the law stating they must be given access. The Road Haulage Association is one of several organisations that has maintained pressure on the issue. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, the Health and Safety Executive, together with the Department for Transport, wrote a letter reminding businesses that make or receive deliveries to ensure truckers have easy and safe access to toilets and handwashing facilities.
Offering cash incentives
According to Driver Require, the average cost of an HGV test pass is £3,000, which is another disincentive to new recruits. It’s understandable, then, that many businesses are offering “golden handshake” incentives to new drivers in the form of ready cash. In August 2021, Hampshire-based fresh produce delivery firm Gist joined Tesco in offering new recruits an enhanced benefits package, including a £2,000 sign-on bonus and additional retention rewards, valued at £5,000.
Aside from cash incentives, firms are keen to recruit new drivers by absorbing the cost of training, qualifications and insurance. Many offer training schemes and initiatives, such as the Warehouse to Wheels programme, which supports warehouse employees in gaining their HGV licence.
“Companies need to be prepared to train staff so they have the skills needed for that particular job,” says Tipping. “Warehouse to Wheels schemes and mentoring programmes all cost money, but they’re a way to demystify the job and provide clear paths to getting on in the industry.”
Elsewhere, SMEs such as Longs of Leeds have their own programmes to give young drivers a leg-up. “We have an extensive driving assessment and training programme, where we can spend more time assessing young drivers and give them experience by having them work alongside existing driver assessors for a number of weeks before being out on their own,” says its Director, Andrew Long. “We work closely with our insurers and get their clearance to take on younger drivers if we need to.”
More government support
When the Transport Select Committee examined HGV driver shortages in 2016, it heard that the industry faced public perceptions that needed to change.
One was making it clear that driving is a job that can offer career progression. Adrian Jones, National Officer for Road Transport and Logistics at Unite, the UK’s biggest trade union, told the committee: “There are opportunities in companies to offer more advanced training for drivers and to look at diversifying into other things
“Not all hauliers have the opportunity, but there are specialist jobs out there in oil distribution and petrol tankers, for example, whether it be in low loaders, heavy haulage or car distribution. There are specialisms that create new challenges for drivers.”
Owing to the impact of pandemic, the acute problem of HGV driver supply prompted the Departments for Transport, Work and Pensions, and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to issue a joint letter to the logistics sector in July 2021 setting out their actions, including:
- Supporting greater HGV testing capacity with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)
- A revised Large Goods Vehicle Driver apprenticeship standard, available from August 2021, and, possibly, a second proposed apprenticeship, Urban Driver
- A temporary relaxation to drivers’ working hours rules
- Working with businesses, Highways England and via planning to improve the quantity and quality of overnight facilities and access to facilities during the day
- Support for an industry-led proposal for a Year of Logistics