It might be hard for the average British motorist to imagine, as they trundle frustratedly behind yet another lorry on the motorway, but there is currently a chronic truck driver shortage in the UK.
In fact, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has calculated that the UK currently needs around 60,000 more truck drivers.
With such a desperate shortage of drivers, many people assume that this is an easy answer for anyone looking for a new job after being made redundant, or for younger people looking for their first regular job. However, there are some considerable hurdles to overcome, in order to get a job as a truck driver. Firstly, training costs can be up to £4000 per driver, which could be prohibitive for many people, who are having to fund that training themselves. Even after training, it is by no means easy to get a permanent truck driving job, as firms would usually much rather employ someone with at least some commercial driving experience, which leaves many new drivers in a chicken and egg situation.
Many truck drivers working in the UK at the moment are from eastern Europe, attracted to this country by regular, well-paid driving work. However, the recent Brexit vote has left many of these drivers concerned for their futures, and fewer European drivers likely to choose to come here in future. Another worrying factor for the industry is that the average age of truck drivers in increasing, with around 65% of drivers aged over 45, and less than 1% of drivers aged under 25. That age demographic, combined with the fallout from Brexit, means that the crisis in the truck driving industry is likely to get much worse.
Impact on Christmas
Obviously, Christmas is by far the busiest time of year for retailers, both offline and online. Order volumes surge in the run-up to Christmas, and many of the goods ordered are transported by lorry. As more and more people switch to online shopping, and with click and collect services becoming a standard offering, the pressure on logistics firms inevitably increases. The risk for retail businesses is that delivery times are compromised by this truck driver shortage, leaving many consumers’ hopes of a fabulous Christmas in tatters. Consumers are an unforgiving bunch, so just one failed delivery, especially at Christmas, can have an enormous impact on a retailer’s online reputation. If delivery promises were broken repeatedly, the implications could be catastrophic for a retailer.
Solving the truck driver shortage
Clearly, many more new truck drivers are needed. The RHA has been lobbying the UK government on this issue for some time, and called for state intervention way back in June 2015, asking for an investment of £150 million to fund driver training. Whilst the government has not yet responded with any tangible support, there is a compelling case for it to do so. The trucking industry employs 2.2 million people, and generates a colossal £74 billion per year for the British economy, so it clearly deserves to be properly supported.
For anyone who sees this current crisis as an incentive to train as a truck driver, there are certainly plenty of opportunities.
Many freight firms are actively seeking to employ drivers from minority backgrounds, as currently only 3% of drivers identify themselves as from a minority. On average, a truck driver works for 42 hours a week, often overnight and regardless of weather conditions. Modern trucks are comfortable to drive and come equipped with good facilities for overnight sleeping, heating and entertainment. A truck driver’s starting salary is around £18,000 – £22,000, rising to around £28,000 with experience. Specialist truck drivers, such as those working on fuel or chemical trucks, can earn up to £35,000. Further down the line, there are opportunities to move towards a management role, and there are qualifications available to help with this.
Contrary to popular belief, trucking careers can be tailored to suit each unique employee, and can make for a very secure source of income in the times to come.