Increasing the number of workplace apprenticeships in the haulage industry is critical to alleviate future driver shortages and protect UK supply chains from longer term disruption, says a Shropshire freight specialist.
Anton Gunter, managing director of Telford-based Global Freight Services, said the current lorry driver crisis, which is affecting stock levels at some UK retailers and restaurants, would continue unless more was done by industry and Government leaders to entice the younger generation into driving careers.
He is backing calls by the freight transport association Logistics UK and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) for the Government to ensure its skills and training schemes support the recruitment of HGV drivers.
He said: “Whilst Brexit and Covid have exacerbated the issue of driver shortages globally for multiple reasons, there have been challenges around staff shortages in the haulage sector for many years and this is largely because it’s a profession which is undervalued within society and demands a huge amount of investment in training.
“Gaining a HGV licence requires a lot of expensive training and therefore younger drivers without the necessary qualifications and experience are overlooked by employers because of the expense.
“As a consequence, it has become an ageing profession with very little new blood coming through and if this doesn’t change soon then we risk escalating the current crisis even further with long-term impacts for UK freight movements and supply chains.”
He added: “The industry needs more support to promote awareness of driving careers, there needs to be more funding to support training and whilst apprenticeships exist in the industry, greater efforts need to be made to make sure they are accessible to young people.
“It seems only now that some big brands such as Nandos and McDonalds have highlighted supply problems that the issues affecting the haulage industry are being recognised as a genuine concern so we need to strike while the iron is hot and continue pressing the Government to take action so that we can open up as many opportunities as possible for young people who might like a career in the haulage industry.”
Logistics UK and the BRC have written to the Government to request a package of measures to help alleviate the road haulage problem.
Among them was a call for a reform of the National Skills Fund to fund HGV driver training and injecting flexibility into the Apprenticeship Levy.