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What can the UK do to tackle the HGV driver shortage?

The UK is currently experiencing a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers. According to a survey by the Road Haulage Association, this shortfall includes thousands of skilled drivers from EU member states who previously lived and worked in Britain.

Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have caused thousands of drivers to leave the UK. Meanwhile, the closure of vocational driving test centres during the pandemic meant that 25,000 fewer candidates completed their training than the previous year. Driver agencies also claim that IR35 tax changes have meant that it’s no longer financially viable to place drivers. At the same time, Trade association Logistics blame an ageing workforce, poor working conditions and low wages on top of the existing shortages for the current shortfall in HGV drivers.

With such a significant shortfall in the number of truck drivers combined with an increased demand for transport, the government and haulage firms are looking at how they can plug the gap.

Temporary visas for drivers

Under growing pressure to take action, the government’s Department of Transport has contacted a million HGV licence holders urging them to return to the industry. Meanwhile, the government has also agreed to provide up to 5,000 temporary visas for foreign HGV drivers to make it easier for EU drivers to come to the UK to work. While the recent fuel crisis saw the government allow 300 overseas fuel tanker drivers to come over to the UK immediately, it is also extending a further 4,700 visas to help plug the gap.

Improving HGV driver retention

For firms in the transport and haulage industry, driver retention has never been so challenging. As with most jobs, money is not the only way to incentivise your best drivers to stay. There are several ways firms can boost their driver retention, for example:

Improve the benefits package

Improving the benefits and remuneration package for your drivers can go a long way in helping you keep hold of your qualified drivers. Take a look at the terms of employment you currently offer your drivers and consider whether you can offer a higher salary, flexible working times, training programmes to develop drivers’ skills or increase your pension contributions.

Build better engagement

Driving an HGV for hours at a time can be a lonely job, and drivers can feel isolated. Giving your drivers a greater sense of belonging to the company can go a long way in encouraging them to feel valued and an important part of the company. Improving lines of communication, arranging regular one-to-one meetings and encouraging drivers to feedback on how they would like to see the company improve.

Provide additional training

Providing courses and training for your drivers such as economic driving or first aid training does not only benefit them, but it can also benefit your business. Demonstrating that you are prepared to invest in your drivers shows that you care about them as individuals, develops attachment and helps to improve retention.

Well organised workloads

A common complaint amongst drivers is their unrealistic workloads. They may feel that they are driving for too many hours a day and are concerned about getting tired at the wheel. Firms need to properly manage workloads to ensure that drivers can get the appropriate amount of rest. The health of HGV drivers is an important issue, especially as their job involves long periods of sitting down. Encouraging healthy practices among your workforce and rewarding these can help your business avoid losing valuable staff due to poor health.

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