Pay rises and apprenticeship schemes first steps on the road to plugging the gap as driver shortage continues.

Why did the chicken cross the road? It’s a question we’ve all been asked at some point in our lives, often as a precursor to a bad pun or joke but perhaps it’s time we as consumers begin asking ‘how does the chicken cross the road’ – or more aptly how does it reach KFC?

Our expectation as customers has evolved so far that we can often get what we want quickly, often just by tapping a few fingers.

But because of how seamless this process typically is, we often don’t give a second thought to how those products get from A to B. Or the herculean effort of countless companies and workers behind the scenes, that keeps the nation’s supply chain running as frictionlessly as possible.

That is until it isn’t seamless and  restaurant chains like Nandos and KFC are running out of chicken, or supermarkets like Iceland start struggling to keep everyday items like bread and soft drinks on the shelves.

Only then do we begin to ponder how this process works and how an ongoing  national shortage in HGV drivers could result in Christmas being cancelled.

The shortage itself has been blamed on everything from Covid-19 and the so-called ‘pingdemic’ of people being told they need to isolate by the NHS App to the IR35 tax reforms introduced earlier this year. However, each of these factors are only considered to be a part of what leading logistics providers Freightline are calling a ‘perfect storm’ for the industry’s problems; and the darkest cloud in that storm is apparently Brexit.

As Sav Aulakh, Managing Director at Freightline, says: “The Brexit vote resulted in thousands of EU drivers leaving the UK, leaving haulage firms scrambling to fill vacancies that aren’t seen as appealing to many prospective employees.   Very few newcomers are prepared to work anti-social hours, coupled with what is generally considered to be poorer facilities than say in Europe and for what they consider poor pay -although there are reports of some drivers receiving as high as a 40% pay rise in recent weeks. “

It’s estimated that the current shortfall of drivers stands at around 100,000 and is only expected to grow as many older drivers retire and others continue to seek work in other industries.

Recently a new apprenticeship standard for HGV drivers was introduced,  which has the potential to make a career in the int logistics industry slightly more appealing for new applicants as now they can ‘earn while they learn’.

The introduction of the scheme has been widely praised by many in the industry but there have been calls for the government to extend the supporting incentive payment scheme, which would see companies earn £3000 per candidate enrolled on the scheme, passed the current deadline of the end of September as there are fears this won’t give businesses enough time to understand the apprenticeship, identify training providers and recruit applicants in time to benefit from the incentive.

Whether the apprenticeship will be enough to attract new drivers remains to be seen, and given that the scheme has only just launched, providers will still need to find ways to plug the gap now and over the coming months to ensure Christmas is still coming.

As Sav explains, many companies are offering pay raises as well as bonuses to incentivise the drivers they currently have although the simple fact remains that as of right now there simply isn’t a large enough pool of drivers available to meet demand.

About Freightline
Freightline is a leading logistics provider to numerous market-leading companies across multiple industry sectors. They provide a number of services including Road and Air Freight, Freight Forwarding and Warehouse and Distribution. For more information please visit: www.freightlinecarriers.co.uk