Driven to distraction
23 August 2021
The exponential rise in home deliveries and the rapid re-opening of many sectors of industry after the lifting of lockdown restrictions have led to a well-publicised shortage of drivers.
Brexit, and the resultant reduction in the available European labour pool, has also been cited as a reason for a situation that has led to an estimated shortfall of 90,000 drivers.
Some supermarkets, manufacturers, farmers and suppliers are finding that pickup and delivery times cannot be guaranteed in some instances.
Ironically, official figures last week showed that UK job vacancies are at a record high. But several lobby groups for the retail and transport industries have jointly written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng warning that the impact on supply chains is getting worse.
And hirers are also finding it difficult to recruit these important workers.
“We’ve been looking for a new driver for about two months,” one hirer in the Midlands tells me. “Some applicants have just been unsuitable – an agency sent us an application from a bus driver today, which is a world away from delivering and collecting plant and tools.”
Another hirer in the south-west of England reported a similar experience, saying: “The quality just isn’t out there and it’s very frustrating. And working in hire is not like a job with Eddie Stobart or Amazon where drivers just have to connect up, go to the destination and reverse into the drop-off area where it’s all unloaded for them.
“Customers on construction sites expect you to do more than just a kerbside drop. Our guys are unloading and loading plant, finding excavator buckets on site, walking through mud and all sorts. We’ve just increased the starting salary quoted on our job advertisements to see if that attracts more suitable candidates.
“It’s been difficult to find good drivers for a long time. And it also seems hard to encourage young people to consider it as a career.”
Some firms like Tesco and Dixons Carphone, the owner of Carphone Warehouse and Currys PC World, have offered substantial joining-up bonuses to attract new lorry driver recruits.
So filling those vacancies could become even more challenging.
Picture: Nigel Tadyanehondo/Unsplash