Since the wage increase of HGV drivers in the UK, the industry’s employment rates have improved steadily over the course of 2016. Many reports predicted wages will increase for drivers within 12 months at the start of the year. However, one thing the reports could not predict was Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Many are still questioning how Brexit will have an impact on the recruitment rate of staff, especially for those from Europe and what it could mean for employment rates overall.
Exiting the European Union could also mean a change in legislation for the legal limit for HGV drivers working hours.
A report titled “Driver Shortage: Issues and Trends” that was commissioned by the FTA which showed data from researchers at RepGraph predicted the decline between the amount of registered large goods vehicles and the number of registered drivers is currently 34,567 compared to the “pre-crisis” as described by the FTA in 2012.
The increase in lorry driver wages has helped to increase the amount of drivers interested in a career in transport. With wages now estimated at twice average inflation it has been described as a “positive force” ensuring that drivers are paid fairly and feel no need to quit their job or move on to another career which could be more beneficial.
The FTA plans to update the reports to be published every 6 months to keep the industry aware of how employment rates are proceeding in the midst of Brexit. This not only helps companies keep up to date with the important knowledge in the haulage industry, but this will also make it easier for researchers to predict what could happen next to wages and employment levels.
It was also revealed many drivers feel that roadside facilities need a serious improvement as they prove to be as hazardous as ever. This means some of the drivers who park up for the night cannot even feel relaxed in their own cabin due to the dangerous environment around them.
To increase the amount of drivers better facilities are needed to facilitate further licence registrations and employment increases.
FTA Deputy Chief: James Hookham spoke with reports regarding the matter: “The report highlights the industry’s reliance on EU nationals, with more than 30,000 – 10 percent of the entire driver workforce – currently employed in the UK.”
“The uncertainty about their employment rights and status once Britain leaves the EU is a major concern for businesses. We urge the government to ensure its Brexit negotiations afford special status to logistics and allow for this employment to continue so that the industry is not hit by another driver shortage crisis”
“Better roadside facilities are also needed – especially if we plan to attract more women into the industry – and more help from the government with the cost of acquiring a vocational licence, which is often cited as a barrier to recruitment in the industry.”
The report demonstrated the average age of newly-qualified drivers is 34, when in comparison to an average of age 48 for the overall population. This means more than half of the drivers who took the LGV driving test last year were under the age of 35. It was also revealed the pass rate of female drivers is higher than that of the male pass rate.
87% of HGv drivers surveyed in 2016 said poor wages were contributing to the driver shortage.
Transport analyst Kirsten Tisdale, Aricia, had previously spoke regarding the amount of drivers working in different occupations which was connected to pay rates as well as the working conditions and hours. With recent events in mind she said Brexit would be a great opportunity to make the job role more appealing for new drivers if the government are willing to reform driver’s regulated hours.
“Before EU driver hours came along, the transport act of 1968 restricted driver’s working day to 12.5 hours through what was referred to as a “spreadover” she said.
“That was the case up until the amendment in 1986 which abolished previous limits on driver duty when a driver was covered by EC rules were seen as effectively limiting the hours of which a driver could be on duty. In 2005 the Working Time Directive was applied to the road transport industry with the very weak interpretation of periods of availability that was adopted into the UK’s system. And that weak interpretation was accompanied by a casual approach to its use, in many ways turning what should have been protective legislation into just another administrative task.
“However, until 2007 any reduction in daily rest from 11 to 9 hours still had to be made up by the end of the following week. After EC regulation 561/2006 was introduced in April 2007, no rest compensation was required. Could a return to the past regime be helpful? Certainly pay would need to reflect the change as drivers would still have the same rent to pay and families to feed. It would not be an easy pill for the industry to swallow.
“But I’m interested in how much could be made up for by efficiencies: reducing PoAs, which are often effectively an admission of wasted driver time. Would limiting the length of the working day back to the 12.5 hour spreadover help to make the job more attractive?
“That change in April 2007 means that each and every week can include three 15-hour days. And after each of those 15-hour days the driver needs to travel home, eat and say goodnight before sleeping for a few hours and getting up again …quite probably at what I’ve seen described as stupid o’clock. Would you want to work those hours?”
During the Returnloads.net 2016 Driver Shortage survey over 90% of participants said that increased wages would attract more drivers into pursuing a career in haulage while 78% also stated they wouldn’t recommend becoming a HGV driver as a career. With increased wages in place in an effort to counter the shortage employers seem to be paying attention to feedback from their drivers. With this in mind as well as the potential of a change to the working hours of drivers if the UK leaves the EU, a career in transport may not be such a tiring prospect for future generations after all.