What can fleets do to mitigate the driver shortage?
The logistics industry has experienced a critical driver shortage, and while some recent reports suggest figures are stabilising, the industry still has a chronic problem with recruitment and retention. A recent bulletin from the Driver Require Think Tank has noted that while the number of tests and therefore entrants to the industry has increased, drivers retired during Q4 2021 at four times the previous average rate. While the under 30s age group has a 67% churn year on year. Young people are joining the industry – but they are not staying.
The problem is illustrated by these key points:
- There are 94,000 fewer HGV drivers now than in 2005. There were 53,000 fewer drivers in June 2021 than in 2017, and 39,000 fewer in June 21 than in June 2019. The available pool is 15.6% smaller than it was in 2019.
- Although logistics is becoming more efficient, there is also anecdotal evidence from employers that they are working all their assets harder, including vehicles and drivers. While few would breach the drivers’ hours rules, organisations are finding that they are working up to the limits of the Working Time Directive. The Diver Require Think Tank Bulleting March 2022 says: “Operators are sweating their assets by running higher mileages and consequently their drivers are working more overtime.”
- There is anecdotal evidence from hauliers that they are having to accept lower initial standards, or less experience from new recruits than they would previously have chosen.
- The average age of truck drivers is 51 so many will think of retirement within 10 years. The pressure of the COVID pandemic also seems to have changed people’s priorities, and more are choosing to leave high stress professions. Unfortunately, HGV driving is usually not a family-friendly, or time-flexible career.
- The public perception of commercial driving is poor and fails to account for the skill and professionalism necessary. There’s little evidence that the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence, designed as a continuous professional development obligation has changed this.
- An increase in home deliveries, congested roads and the increasing presence of vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, makes city driving very stressful for drivers.
- Although the number of tests conducted by DVSA has been expanded, the test procedure has been simplified, outsourcing the reversing element to training providers, and making it possible for motorists to proceed directly to C+E (articulated vehicle) qualifications without training or being tested in intermediate vehicles.
As a result, the UK driver pool is almost certainly more prone to fatigue, stress and in need of post-qualification coaching than ever before. A system such as SmartDrive’s video-based safety programme can help to monitor driver behaviour, detect fatigue, risky or stress-related behaviours, and provide the coaching mechanisms to prevent them.
However, using a safety system has other benefits in relation to recruitment and retention.
What can fleets do to retain their current drivers?
- Employees generally tend to weight their remuneration against their employer’s reputation, values and purpose. We are currently experiencing the so-called ‘Great resignation’ as employees rethink what is important to them. Employees want more than salary – they want to feel involved, cared for and valued. While driving might not offer the same flexibility as other occupations, employers can make drivers feel that their safety and skill is top of the agenda.
- A driver coaching system based on the kind of actionable insights SmartDrive produces for its clients doesn’t only make drivers safer – it makes them better. It is in itself an ongoing continuous professional development. This can be a source of pride and professionalism.
- Driver recognition is really important. These people work long hours, often in unenviable conditions. For their manager and their employer to recognise and reward great driving or great customer service, this can make a big difference to motivation.
- One proposed solution to the driver shortage is to attract and coach more young drivers. Currently candidates must be 18 and have a full car licence in order to progress to HGV licence acquisition. Fleet insurers are uncomfortable with youth and inexperience which tend to correlate with collision risk. The good news is that younger drivers have also grown up with personal technology and so are enthusiastic about the possibilities of in-cab technologies.
- A proactive and utilised safety system cuts costs, which in turn protects profitability and jobs.
- Women are often more attracted to roles which are described in terms of collaboration, conscientiousness, safety-awareness and values than to competitive masculine language. If we want to encourage female drivers into the industry, emphasising driver well-being, safety and coaching initiatives is a plus.
SmartDrive Systems’ video safety solution helps with all of these points. It makes your driver’s work experience less stressful because the cameras can be used for personal security, to exonerate the driver when not-at-fault and protect against fraudulent claims. It highlights good driving, enabling reward and recognition. By creating better drivers, it also cuts operating costs, giving more leeway for driver reward schemes. Remember it can cost almost one-third of a driver’s annual salary to recruit someone new if you include agency fees or temporary wages for cover. Investing in drivers’ sense of value, safety and professionalism pays dividends in productivity and bottom-line results.
- Posted by Shannon McNamara
- On August 31, 2022