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Driver Shortage Looms In The Run-Up To Christmas.

The pre-Christmas peak has traditionally offered the road transport industry an opportunity to increase volumes and boost turnover.

For many logistics organisations the extra spike in traffic has been a lifeline and vital to their continued success. To cope with the additional pre-Christmas peak road, hauliers have traditionally made contingency plans, and hired extra vehicles and employed additional seasonal drivers. However, many in the Logistics Industry fear that the shortage of drivers may result in parked-up trucks and empty shelves in the run up to Christmas 2014.

So what’s causing the problem?

Well, it’s basically that the timing of the driver certificate of professional competence for professional bus, coach and lorry drivers, better known as the Driver CPC, has inevitably led to a shortage of drivers. In September, the Road Haulage Association commissioned research which found that 96.4% of the hauliers who were relying on agency drivers were experiencing difficulties with recruitment. The RHA laid the blame for this shortage squarely on the shoulders of the Driver CPC.

The criticism has received backing from many within the industry. Mark Steele, commercial manager at Leicester-based Premier Logistics told Commercial Motor magazine that the timing of the Driver CPC which was causing his company a headache. He believes that the industry, post-DPC is in crisis as there are simply just not enough drivers available, and that problem will only get worse in the run-up to Christmas:

“Whoever thought it would be a great idea to incorporate Driver CPC on the run-up to peak time made a ludicrous decision.”

“Most haulage businesses make their money in the last 3 months of the year, and hibernate for the rest as margins are so tight. This year is going to be very difficult for hauliers including ourselves. I imagine you will see some operators relying on this last 3 months of the year to make their profit, not being able to [due to the lack of temporary drivers] and going under. I think that in January, 2015, you will see more haulage administrations than ever before. It’s all about timing,” he added.

As a consequence, he is calling on the government to allow an amnesty, that is, a three-month period of reduced legislation, to free up more drivers for Christmas. This will, he argues, allow them to obtain their Driver CPC certificates in January when workloads reduce.

His call for a Christmas amnesty has received backing for others in the industry. Simon Edwards, sector director of logistics at Manpower Group, concurs that the timing of the Driver CPC has severely impacted the industry’s ability to recruit more drivers for both permanent and agency positions. He claims that during the summer between 7,000 and 10,000 drivers a day were off the road to undertake training, and this created a backlog of driver vacancies that the industry is now desperately trying to fill. He told Commercial Motor magazine:

“This [driver shortage] is set to continue in the run-up to the Christmas peak, when the skills shortage is likely to become more acute.”

What’s more the Driver CPC requirement has also had a significant effect on company budgets, as the shortage has increased wage demands:

“For many agency drivers this will be their first significant pay increase since the beginning of the recession, and is likely to be perceived as an opportunity to catch up on lost wages. Companies that lock drivers in early are likely to avoid high-premium payments and secure the best talent, whereas those [companies] using agency drivers purely on an ad hoc basis will undoubtedly feel the biggest impact from the shortage,” he added.
He suggested that hauliers should work urgently and cooperatively with agencies to secure and lock-in the anticipated number of agency staff for peak periods to mitigate higher rates.

However, it is estimated that the great demands placed on hauliers by major retailers during the Christmas spike can increase demand for additional drivers by over 200%. No amount of forward planning can accommodate that sort of demand. So, hauliers are having to use multiple agencies to source staff, and that is leaving them vulnerable, and at the mercy of the markets.

For further information about TTA’s JAUPT accredited Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) Driver Development programmes, and our broad range of logistics courses on ITSSAR Fork Lift Truck and Warehouse training, LGV Licence upgrades (B+E, C1, D1, C1+E, C and C+E), Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving courses and ADR (Hazchem), managerial courses include DSA LGV Instructor and Transport Managers Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) and our short courses consisting of Manual Handling, First Aid at Work and Working at Heights, call TTA’s expert training team on 0845 056 0561.

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