Where Have All the Drivers Gone? Sector Faces Widening Supply/Demand Gap

You might think that the driving sector is niche enough to make little difference to the overall economy if things started to go a little awry. Well, they have: demand for drivers in the transportation industry has started to far outstrip supply. What possible impact could this have on financial recovery, and what does it mean for procurement and sourcing within the sector?

Jon Milton, Business Development Director of supply management specialist Comensura, which is expert in temporary, permanent and consultant labour, put it very succinctly:

“The entire logistics industry is worth more than £74 billion to the UK economy and employs around 2.2 million people in over 196,000 companies, so it’s playing a big part in helping our economy recover … it is worrying that the driving sector is suffering from staff shortages and that the majority of recruiters believe they will get worse.”

This puts the problem into perspective; so what’s behind the supply/demand gap? Comensura recently carried out a survey of specialist recruitment agencies, from the largest well-known agencies to local SMEs contracted to supply temporary drivers, to identify candidate availability, challenges in the sector and to help formulate advice for businesses. It has produced an interesting and somewhat eye-opening report, which you can download free here “Driving and transportation - the view from recruitment agencies.”

The shortage has increased in the past year and recruitment agencies are responding, in some cases, by sourcing candidates abroad or offering incentives to those drivers to recommend workers from their countries, like helping them with accommodation and getting them used to British roads.

Some of the main factors behind an unprecedented shortage in qualified drivers are:

  • The financial cost of becoming qualified is deterring young candidates from becoming licensed and getting training.
  • It is taking longer to register a sourced driver and get applicants to a ‘ready to work’ status, owing to increased administrative processes.
  • The introduction of driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) training has impacted driver numbers.
  • Recent changes in the driving licence categories.
  • Logistics firms are demanding more knowledge of technology than ever before.

And the main problems faced by businesses and recruitment agencies are:

  • Overall demand for drivers will increase by at least 10% in 2015.
  • The category population is ageing, with the average age of existing LGV drivers at 53, and many approaching retirement. The lack of new candidates available to replace them could eventually have disastrous effects on the supply chain.
  • Most businesses look for experienced drivers, a group in rapid decline, which makes them the most difficult category to recruit.
  • Escalating pay rates owing to cost of licensing and training
  • 149,000 new drivers are expected to be needed in the sector between 2010 and 2020.

The report is a wake-up call for businesses with driver requirements, and especially for those reliant upon transportation to deliver goods/services/people – and that’s probably most of them. It offers some solid advice on how to narrow the gap between dwindling supply and increasing demand.

It concludes by calling on the government to support the sector by addressing skills shortages, simplifying licence and training requirements and costs for young drivers and ensuring the UK’s infrastructure networks are developed.

Jon Milton concluded that so long as organisations follow recommended guidance, they should be able to manage their demand effectively to ensure that they recruit the right number of candidates when they need them, which will help to minimise driver shortages.  But he also suggest that “a review of the industry as a whole is in order to consider whether it’s qualifying drivers in the right way and how well it’s attracting people to enter the profession.”

You can download the full report here.

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