As we are all aware from the recent issues with our fuelling stations, the recent purge in petrol and diesel purchases was initially triggered by the news of driver shortages. Although the problem was ultimately blamed on panic buying, the driver shortage is a very real problem - and not only in the oil industry. Here we chat to Cawleys MD, Phil Gudgeon to dig a little deeper into what’s going on.
So, Phil, what’s the crux of the problem and why is it affecting commercial drivers?
“The haulage industry has been aware of the issue for quite some time but has worked hard to address the problem so that it has had minimal impact on daily life. Now that the problem has taken centre stage, the issue has created much more of an impact. Whatever sector an industry is in, there is always a reliance to some degree on haulage. Transportation of goods is at the heart of our economy and any reduction in the ability to move goods around the country has the potential to have real and tangible impact on everyday life. Indeed, a severe driver shortage could have catastrophic results - particularly if it begins to impact emergency services, or the delivery of medicine and food. Fortunately, we are not at that stage, however the shortage is still a problem.”
Why is there a driver shortage?
“The driver shortage is a result of far more than just Brexit and Covid. Within the haulage sector there is an ageing workforce and there has been a long-standing struggle to recruit younger drivers. This is partly down to unsociable hours, being away from home overnight and the very poor facilities in this country for HGV drivers. However, in the waste industry things are a little different. Because for the most part waste drivers are not long-haul, drivers such as ours work mostly days with very few night shifts and overnight stops. In addition, the facilities issue is less problematic because of those things.”
So, is the driver shortage still having an impact in the waste industry, if so why?
“The main issue in the waste industry is attracting the right applicants and keeping them. Because the work associated with waste collection can be extremely physical as well as dirty and smelly at times, other HGV jobs may be more attractive and if there is a smaller pool of drivers to choose from there will naturally be less applicants and a higher attrition rate. Add to this the reduction in foreign drivers, due to Brexit, and the delays in training and new driver tests due to Covid, the result is too many jobs and too few drivers”.
What is Cawleys doing to address the issue?
“Ultimately our business relies on providing a first-class service to our customers and to do this we need to ensure the routes are operating efficiently. We’ve not been afraid to use our workforce flexibly to plug the gaps where they have become apparent. For the longer term we have taken several important measures to attract the best drivers in the business. We have reviewed our wage structure, continued investing in the latest vehicles and added a benefits package to suit. Our recruitment drive has also highlighted the benefits of flexible working and attractive hours, as well as great packages including significant employee benefits.”