Being an HGV driver can give you a great life and a reliable career, but there are also several challenges involved too.
Being an HGV driver can give you a great life and a reliable career, but there are also several challenges involved too. Many of these are not insurmountable but they do require some unique thinking on the part of the drivers and the logistics companies to make the job as practical and enjoyable as possible whilst staying healthy and safe.
News headlines recently have started to highlight the fact that there is a serious shortage of drivers in the HGV industry at the moment. It is proving to be the biggest concern for the industry as a whole as this can cause delays in supply lines, creating food shortages and a lack of essential services. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 drivers will need to be recruited in the next five years to plug the serious gaps that are appearing.
One of the reasons that there are so few drivers currently is due to the long hours spent at home, and it is being widely recognised that working schedules need to be made more flexible. The average age of an HGV driver in the UK is 50, so helping the career path to appeal to a younger audience is essential.
Expanding the search to women and minorities will also help to diversify the industry and give it a more inclusive feel. As women are believed to be involved in 20% less crashes, it seems like a safe move to bring them into the industry.
The life of a truck driver can be a lonely one, with many hours spent on the road. Given the distances that need to be travelled, drivers can often be away for days at a time, particularly as they are limited to a 14-hour driving window. The way that breaks are taken has been changed recently to give drivers more flexibility whilst maintaining safety. However, there is still more that needs to be done in order to help drivers avoid congestion and to be able to sleep when they feel the need.
Previously, drivers have been subject to required half hour breaks, which many have felt contributes to the shortage of appropriate parking spaces given that everyone is required to do the same thing.
No-one ever believes they are paid enough, but truck drivers in particular feel that they are being short-changed. The driver shortage has seen rates rise slightly, but there is still a long way to go for drivers to feel fully appreciated.
Tiredness is a common complaint amongst truck drivers who need to concentrate for long periods of time. This is compounded by the stress of traffic and punishing timetables.
Drivers join the HGV industry because they want to drive, but it seems that many seem to spend more time waiting at customer facilities. This not only impacts on their pay and their Hours Of Service but can also add to their parking woes. In some cases it is possible to wait for as much as six hours.
Trucks are not easy things to manoeuvre due to their size, so trying to navigate one down a tightly packed street, in and out of parked cars and into areas which are tricky to access requires a great amount of skill and can be very draining on the driver.
It is a simple issue for most of us, but parking is one of the biggest concerns that lorry drivers cite. Given the size of the vehicles they are driving, there are limited spaces that can accommodate an HGV and these tend to fill up quickly. This has led to many finding themselves in undesignated or unsafe areas instead, which is something everyone needs to avoid. More facilities are desperately needed in order to ensure truck drivers can park and rest in absolute safety.
Many drivers love the life of the cab, but it isn’t always the greatest option when it comes to health. The nature of the job makes it difficult to exercise, and with limited break times and facilities, there is a tendency to eat on the go, relying on high fat and high sugar convenience food. Working shifts, and suffering the isolation of long trips away can often take its toll on mental health too, making it challenging to stay healthy whilst driving.
Retention and recruitment
When you have got a good driver, you are likely to want to keep them, but driver retention can be a problem. Many move out of the industry altogether when they experience the combination of poor working conditions and low pay.
Recruiting to replace these lost drivers is now also harder than you might now think. The truths of working in the HGV industry are being laid bare, and the communities that are being targeted do not want to put themselves forwards for this. They are also put off by a male dominated industry where it is presumed that you need certain levels of physical strength and engineering background just to get by.
Electronic Logging Devices
Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) keep a track of the activity of the operation of the vehicle including the Hours of Service to make sure rest periods are taken when needed. Whilst they can often be blamed for additional layers of regulation the ELDs are there to make a point about safety and to reduce paperwork, replacing the old-fashioned paper logbook. All fleets were required to switch to using ELDs in 2019 and it is felt that it is responsible for a drop in productivity.
Being a truck driver can be very rewarding, but more and more in the profession are becoming disillusioned with their work thanks to the problems that they now have to face. This is making driver retention and recruitment much harder, and all eyes are on the government and organising bodies to see what can be done to make the HGV industry a safer, more enjoyable and more appealing place to work.
Fleet Ex are specialists in quality end of lease/ex-fleet trucks and trailers and are global leaders in the trucking industry. Fleet Ex have a true passion for the industry and make it their mission to answer any question customers can throw at them.