Transportation: An ageing industry?

The UK driver shortage is a topic that has been discussed time and time again since it hit headlines last year. Many theories have circulated about the true cause of the shortage; however, the real answer is that there isn’t just one, but rather a series of events and circumstances which ultimately fuelled the issue to critical point.

One issue that is often overlooked is that the average age of an HGV driver in the UK is 55, and therefore many are close to retirement. An ageing workforce in the past wasn’t such an issue as those retiring could be replaced, however with an increased strain on the industry due to less drivers being available; longer hours and poor conditions were plaguing the roads in order to keep up with demand.

The solution to this comes threefold:

  • Attract younger generations to the industry through better incentives such as:
  1. Promising wages
  2. Better roadside facilities
  3. Opportunities to travel
  4. Joining an in-demand and long-lasting
  • Increase training facilities for new drivers and offer financial support towards gaining their HGV license
  • Increase funding into projects that are developing ‘autonomous trucking’ (HGV’s driven without a driver)
  • Self-driving truck firm TuSimple, based in California, are currently conducting depot-to-depot delivery run tests in Arizona. These are 100% automated, but managed by a human (SupplyChain, 2022)

Re-engaging the workforce has seen a positive impact already, with driver wages having risen by an estimated 20% since the shortages hit home, and many big companies such as Tesco offering a significant signing-on fee or offering to pay for drivers to upgrade their HGV1 license, such as Poundland.

The November 2021 HGV Driver Shortage Crisis Bulletin reported that while around 9,000 drivers under the age of 45 left the workforce in Q3, 10,000 under-45’s joined (SupplyChain, 2022). Therefore, it is evident that although the UK is still significantly short of skilled drivers, the measures being taken have seen a positive return on investment, it’s just a question of whether this effort will alleviate the crisis and better shape the industry in the years to come.