MPs on the Transport Committee warn that current thinking is not sufficiently targeted or wide-reaching to deliver drivers fast enough to address the shortage, deal with future growth or cope with the ageing profile of drivers likely to retire in the next ten years. Haulage associations estimate a current shortfall of 45,000–60,000 drivers with another 40,000 due to leave the industry by 2017.
Evidence gathered during the inquiry points to particular problems in distribution, where 91% of companies surveyed by the Freight Transport Association reported difficulties in recruiting drivers.
The Committee heard that many thousands of licensed LGV drivers choose not to drive professionally. A combination of factors is conspiring to keep drivers off the road, including the cost of acquiring a licence; lack of investment in drivers' training; poor working terms; and inadequate roadside facilities.
The industry could look to under-represented groups for new recruits. Figures from the sector's own research reveal 92% of 400,000 or so people holding both an LGV licence and a Driver CPC are men. More than 60% of LGV drivers are aged 45 years and over (compared to 35% in the general working age population) but around 1% of LGV drivers are under 25 years.
While there were few reliable statistics on ethnicity or alternative working patterns, it was reported in 2010 that only 3% of the road haulage workforce in England was from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. The same report stated that only 9% of road haulage employees work part-time.
Chair of the Transport Committee, Louise Ellman MP, said:
"This is not a new challenge. The road haulage sector has been short of skilled drivers for the last ten years. The familiar profile of the professional driver – over 45, white and male – will need to adapt.
Industry and Government need to get their heads together and come up with a plan which focusses on recruitment and retention.
After years of under-investment in the sector, let's encourage skilled drivers back into their cabs by improving the image of the profession, revisiting pay and conditions and providing proper and secure facilities at depots and on the roadside.
Who are the drivers of the future? Let's look to female drivers, young drivers and BAME drivers, currently under-represented in the sector. Government and industry should review apprenticeships, reduce training costs and insurance, and demonstrate clear career progression.
If people are unwilling to work in the sector, it is up to industry and Government to change perceptions. Almost everything we use in our daily lives has, at some point, been transported by a large goods vehicle. UK PLC relies on them."