Truck driving in the media

London, UK: Industry groups have long struggled get to media attention for truck drivers and the transport industry in general.

The industry, and truck drivers in particular. are now in the spotlight but perhaps for all the wrong reasons.

Newspapers and the BBC are all running stories about the effects of the driver shortage with fast food firms running out of key foods such as chicken, and empty shelves on supermarkets.

But the main message emerging from the driver drivers interview is one of poor conditions, low pay, and little public regard.

The BBC spoke to Tom Reddy who has been driving lorries for more than 15 years. His pay was recently increased from £17.50 an hour to £24.50 – a 40% jump.

“I’ve never known anything like it,” he told the BBC’s Wake Up To Money programme. “But they could pay me £80,000 a year and it wouldn’t be enough, I want to leave.”

Reddy says it is difficult to have a family life with the unsociable hours the job demands.
While Brexit is a factor, it is the shifts, regularly sleeping in a lay-by and the rude way in which members of the public talk to him that make him no longer want to continue in the job.

He also blames gender imbalance in the workplace, as well as racism and xenophobia on the road for his decision to leave.

While he welcomes recent moves by the industry to give more attention to the mental health of drivers, this isn’t enough, Reddy says. “For many of us, it is hard to get out of, because it doesn’t give you the skills other employers want, even though it is a highly skilled job.”

Delivery driver Sam Waine is looking to become a HGV driver, but she says the process to join the profession has been complicated by the pandemic. She is desperate to get behind the wheel but forced to wait for driver testing to be up and running again.

Nick Downing, an owner driver for 43 years, says he cannot recommend the profession to young people. When he started out in the late 1970s, parking overnight and using free facilities in towns like public bathrooms was quite common. He says most have now closed, leaving few options available when driving in the UK.

“On the Continent, their facilities are a lot better than our own and I think that’s a lot of the reason why the younger generation are not coming into the job.”

Conditions “get worse every week” and people are often not very understanding. “We’re away five or six nights a week. We just want to feel secure and have facilities with a toilet and shower block. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask in the 21st century.”

“It’s a sad thing to say, but I don’t think you should. Maybe pay a bit more attention at school, instead of kicking a ball about like I did.”

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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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