Desperately Seeking Drivers

Date: 29th Thursday, July, 2021

According to the Road Haulage Association, tens of thousands of HGV driving tests have been cancelled due to Covid restrictions leading to an increase in demand for drivers to keep the UK’s supply chain moving. The vision of empty supermarket shelves has grabbed the nation’s attention as we enter a post ‘Freedom Day’ period of normalisation. The significance of this dilemma cannot be over-stated. It is analogous to our dwindling bee population. Mankind relies on these little creatures to pollinate around 85% of cultivated crops. No bees – no food.  No drivers – no plentiful supply of Haribo sweets, beer, or bread that we take for granted.

Whilst driver training is an element of the current shortage, there are other factors at play. The country’s collective driving pool has been under pressure for some years. Figures have, to some extent, been propped up by European workers who have supported an occupation that is competing for new blood in a rapidly evolving world. Whilst around six million people have applied to remain in the UK through the EU Settlement Scheme, the driver shortage persists. In particular, the HGV pool needs expanding – and it is not going to happen overnight. To help this we need to address the industry’s image and allure by improving pay and conditions, as well as recognising the critical role drivers play in our lives.

Evidently, the industry has broad challenges that need to be tackled and not all of them can be attributed to the pandemic or Brexit. We are reaching the inevitable tipping point. That rock-bottom of realisation that signals something has to be done or the consequences will be dire. The UK Government has paid some lip service to the issue through vocational schemes and apprenticeships to encourage generally younger people to get behind the wheel and recently announced some fresh initiatives - but is this going to be enough?

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