The penny has finally dropped on the country’s driver shortage

October 8, 2021

From supermarket shelves, to pubs, fast-food restaurants and filling stations, it seems nowhere has been sheltered from the storm of the enduring HGV driver shortage.With Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic blamed for the situation, the Government has launched measures to get more people behind the wheel. But, Caroline Moody, managing director at Cramlington-based Moody Logistics and Storage, says more still needs to be done.

There’s no doubt the current shortfall in qualified lorry drivers has grabbed both the Government’s – and the public’s – attention. For years, the industry warned of the difficulties in attracting the next generation to get behind the wheel.

The average age of a lorry driver is 53 (although the average age of a Moody driver is now 44, due to our successful recruitment policies) and, put simply, they aren’t being replaced quickly enough.

Until recently, the Government’s view was that this could be solved by paying higher wages, resulting in drivers moving between businesses, rather than tackling the long- term problem.

It has also contributed to rising prices and inflation. Brexit has had an impact, mainly in areas with large distribution centres, but it is the pandemic that has increased the pressure. For example, in April and May, we experienced a 35 per cent rise in demand as sectors began to re-open and restock.

One of the main pandemic-related problems is the delays to HGV licence applications and test appointments – an issue I raised with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in June.

Since then, the penny has dropped, and the Government plans to fast-track drivers by combining the Class C and Class E tests into one.

However, more can be done.

For example, why does it take six weeks to approve a provisional lorry licence when an applicant already has a car licence? Why can’t candidates sit their theory test at a training centre, rather than waiting months for a test centre appointment?

And why can’t HGV tests be held seven days a week?

In the past, we have put five driver apprentices through the Government scheme, which takes between 12 and 18 months.

But the real issue is not training costs, usually between £2000 and £3000, but
the time it takes. Those able to employ a qualified driver have a productive employee from day one, while those training a

driver must pay their salary for six months or longer before they can make a real contribution to the business.

We decided back in April to create our own self-funded driver apprenticeship scheme to overcome the delays – and from more than 100 applicants we recruited two, who have both now passed their HGV tests.

We’ve worked hard to streamline the process, ensuring drivers receive excellent mentoring and on-the-job training.

I’m hopeful the previously unsung transport industry is viewed more positively given its vital contribution during the pandemic and that it can work with the Government, distribution centres and customers to ensure that driving a lorry
is seen as a much more attractive career choice.

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