The issues the industry faces in attracting young HGV drivers

Published: 16 January 2015

The issues the industry faces in attracting young HGV drivers

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The issues faced in attracting a younger breed of people into the haulage industry, as a way to help solve the HGV driver shortage crisis, has been revealed by the all-party parliament group (APPG).

The all-party parliament group for freight transport published their report ‘Barriers to Youth Employment in the Freight Transport Sector’.

This will be the groups final report before the country is called to vote at the next General Election in May, after which time the members of the all-party parliamentary group could change.

The current chairman of the group, MP Rob Flello, has said that considerable obstacles still remain in terms of attracting workers in the 16 – 24 age bracket to the freight transport industry, particularly at HGV driver level, despite almost 1 million young people not being in employment, education or training.

The report shows that just 2% of all HGV drivers are under the age of 25 and 60% are over 45 years of age.

Mr Fello told fellow MP’s and industry personnel at the announcement of the report “There is a huge disparity between these two groups, we have so many people over 45 and over 60, and almost none under 25,”

He continued “It is also striking that there are actually slightly more managing directors in transport and distribution businesses that are under the age of 25 than there are HGV divers, which just shows how many barriers there are to getting young people driving,”

One of the most underlying issues that the industry has to overcome is its lack of visibility to wider society. People, particularly younger people, have no idea it even exists. A total lack of awareness of the road haulage sector, which is by some way the single largest segment of the logistics industry and estimated to be worth over £42b a year, was repeatedly highlighted by individuals and businesses submissions to the group.

 The report mentions “While the general public has some awareness of the drivers and the role that they play in the movement of goods, they are generally unaware of the roles which are required to sustain a fleet of commercial vehicles,”

The logistics industry has suffered from repeated governments’ focusing on university education over and above vocational courses, the report continues. “Logistics is too often considered to be a job of last resort. Through pursuit of this agenda and highlighting university places as a marker for education quality, government may have devalued skills that are crucial to the economy.”

This combined with the failure to provide younger people with adequate career guidance, the report noted, pointing to a recent Confederation of British Industry report which concluded: “The quality of careers advice in schools remains in severe crisis. For 93 out of 100 young people to not feel in possession of the facts they need to make informed choices about the future is a damning indictment.”

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Mr Rob Fleloo - MP & Chair at the APPG for Freight Transport

Mr Flello then added: “Unless you have a parent that works in the sector it is one that you have probably never come across in your career guidance.”

There are some grounds for optimism though. The recent decision to increase the minimum school leaving age from 16 to 18 ought to be a chance to increase the numbers attending vocational training courses rather than academic education, and, coupled with the reduced age limit for an HGV licence to 18, this could provide a route for more young people to train as drivers.

“It is now possible that on leaving education a young person could now go straight into the logistics sector as a driver. The government should consult with industry and education providers to explore vocational programmes which could be undertaken by individuals before they reach the age when they can obtain the relevant licences,” the report proposed, however it also warned that the costs of training courses and insurance for younger drivers could be prohibitive and cause issues.

“Contrary to this aspiration, the costs of insurance for the under-25s means that almost no school leavers will become drivers,”

As a result, probably two of its most important and tangible recommendations concern insurance cost and the extension of the student loans system to cover vocational training courses.

“The existing student loans system should be extended to students who wish to undertake training courses provided by accredited organisations, and the level of funding for apprenticeships to age 24.’’

“The government needs to engage with insurers to determine the factors which are causing insurance costs related to young drivers to be exponentially higher than for other drivers, and develop a strategy to bring these costs down,”.

This report highlights industry fears that the driver shortage crisis is an issue that will only get worse. A fifth of all current HGV drivers will reach retirement age in the next decade. That’s around 75,000 drivers and this number does not include those that will have their licences revoked or even those drivers leaving the profession for another job opportunity.

The number of new HGV drivers gaining licences is decreasing year on year. Current figures show a 45% fall in the number obtaining a HGV licence over the past five years. These figures do not come close to replacing those that are anticipated to leave the industry over the next 10 years.

Something needs to be done to attract more HGV drivers in to the industry or it could have a catastrophic impact on the economy.

The FTA have said they are ‘pleased’ that the government has listened to their calls for student style loans to help attract more young HGV drivers.

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