An impending driver shortage?
July 8, 2014
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There seems to be little doubt that the haulage industry will be facing a shortage of drivers sooner or later.
Every member’s meeting that I attend hears reports of a shortage of sub-contractors and difficulties in finding good drivers and there is no prospect of things improving in the next twelve months.
As everyone knows, the deadline for completion of the thirty-five hours of periodic training that is required for drivers who held licences before the DCPC rules started is approaching quickly. While the precise number of drivers that needed to do these hours was never really established and the number of haulage – as opposed to passenger – drivers that have completed their training is equally unknown, the industry has to deal with the availability of drivers on an individual company basis.
As the September deadline passes, we will be heading into the Christmas rush, when demand for both subbies and agency drivers peaks. Do you expect to deal with demand? Have you asked regular subbies if they will be able to cope and have you asked your driver hire agencies what capacity they will have? If you answer “no” to either of those questions you may be in for quite a shock when you do, because all the signs suggest that things will only get worse. This inevitably raises the question of where new drivers will come from, and RHA is working on a number of initiatives that will deliver new drivers and we know of a number of other organisations with schemes designed to bring new people into the industry.
In the meantime, what can members do to keep the drivers that they already have? Well, for a start, you can convince any drivers that are refusing to cooperate with the Driver CPC that it is not going to go away and that they need to get their thirty five hours in before the 10th of September – making it clear that they cannot work without the Qualification Card that comes after thirty five hours are completed. Then there is the question of rates of pay. Keeping drivers might imply higher wages, but, when customers are seeking to extend payment terms, you are trying to expand in response to demand and drivers continue to expect weekly pay packets, higher wages simply add cost and, in turn, put even more pressure on cash flow.
Then there is what is quite often the elephant in the room – drivers’ health. Those older drivers who you are so keen to retain are those that could well have problems renewing a licence because of health issues. Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart problems, sleep apnoea and eyesight can all result in a doctor being unable to pass a driver fit to drive and that will result in the loss of their licence. Many of these problems can be sorted out quickly, particularly if they are detected early, so encouraging drivers to look after their health and getting themselves checked out in good time can keep them in work. There is no one answer to the issue of the growing driver shortage, and the biggest mistake is to think you won’t be affected.