Government must act to improve HGV driver working conditions

To combat the driver shortage crisis long term requires government action to improve the working conditions of drivers, says John Perry, managing director of supply chain and logistics consultancy, Scala.

“The driver shortage is a long-standing problem that had been partly patched over by drivers from the EU. 

The UK visa scheme is a short term fix, but there are longer term solutions that can be guided by the actions of the government and UK companies.

“Years ago, drivers were well paid and often employed by the major brands on very good terms and conditions. However, with increased competition and a drive to reduce costs, wage levels have been eroded as transport operations have been outsourced with very little profit margin for the logistics operators.

“The perfect storm of Brexit and Covid has brought these problems into sharp focus. If we want to combat the issue in the long term, we need to see long-term increases in driver wages and better working conditions. 

John Perry, managing director of supply chain and logistics consultancy, Scala

“Many HGV drivers work very unsociable hours, and they are often required to change those hours every day. Conditions for rests and overnight stays are particularly poor in the UK and this deters most of the population from pursuing a career in HGV driving, particularly among women who only account for 1% of HGV drivers in Britain.

“It is time for real action from both companies and the government. Companies need to be reviewing pay levels and the terms and conditions they are in control of, and the government needs to be looking at how facilities out on road can be improved, and most importantly, how they can support HGV driver training. 

“Training HGV drivers requires a lot of time and is very costly. Many companies do this, but many are also reluctant to incur the heavy costs when trained drivers might leave once they are qualified. It is vital that we encourage young people into the industry, and the government can make a difference by significantly increasing support in this vital training area.”

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In the August issue of Cold Chain News, out now, Gist reveals that it is offering incentives of up to £5,000 for HGV drivers to join its business from August in order to boost capability and resources to deliver chilled foods and fresh produce. bit.ly/3z6j8Si #coldchain

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