How can we get young drivers back on the UK’s roads?

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Maybe the current 'leaky bucket' scenario in the UK is a cultural issue, says Paul Empson. Pic: GettyImages/SolStock
Maybe the current 'leaky bucket' scenario in the UK is a cultural issue, says Paul Empson. Pic: GettyImages/SolStock

Related tags Bakers basco driver shortage Uk Logistics

While there has been a 40% recovery in the number of drivers in the UK, a loss of 9,000 HGV drivers in the same period reflects ‘a leaky bucket scenario’, writes Paul Empson, GM of Bakers Basco.

After many months of doom and gloom around the national driver shortage in the UK, the road to recovery is on the horizon with 30,000 more drivers coming into the driver pool during Q3, a 40% recovery in the drop in numbers since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, when you read further between the lines, a loss of 9,000 HGV drivers in the same period is not great and clearly shows a leaky bucket scenario.

It was long believed that driver shortages were mainly due to an ageing workforce but the latest stats from ONS paint a different picture. That 9,000 loss was among those under the age of 45 - almost cancelling out the number who entered the workforce in the same age bracket.

Clearly, industry has a retention problem and still has much work to do to keep these young drivers on the road.

We’ve seen plenty of companies offer incentive schemes and huge pay rises in an effort to help tackle the crisis and attract more drivers. Yet still, people are leaving the industry. Why?

Instant gratification

Could it be the demands of the new consumer and their fast-paced lives these days, which is dictating the 24/7, 365 days delivery schedules?

Everybody wants their bread, food, clothes or home furnishings tomorrow (if not the same day!), which has even spurred on a massive rise in on-demand delivery apps who claim to be able to deliver to your door in as little as 10-20 minutes. Consumers don’t need to plan ahead like they did in the past, they don’t want to wait for their goods and services, they want them now.

And while that’s great to know that you can have everything you need within 24 hours after just one click on the internet, it is this very culture that is leaning heavily on drivers and forcing the shift patterns that are currently out there.

You have to wonder if it’s this very culture that is steering drivers under 45 away from the industry. With flexible working gaining popularity during the pandemic, do they really want to give up their life, a chance to spend time with family in sociable hours, and work around a body clock that’s hard to live with?

Enticing young people

In my experience working in logistics, the food industry generally pays very well for delivery drivers and you would certainly be earning at least the average way, and more. We only ever see bad press around driving and how difficult it can be but how about a real push on the positives so that we can get more young people entering the world of driving?

It’s down to all of us across the industry to really step up and push the benefits and qualifications that come with being a HGV driver.

The world of driving is a tough role in itself – long hours, hard work and at times, it can be stressful on the great British roads. But with strong earning potential, ranging dependent on the company and type of goods delivered, it certainly has its positives, too.

And we need these drivers to help maintain the high level of speed and convenience of the 21st century consumer.

Perhaps we’ve been getting it wrong all along. It’s not just a driver issue. It’s not just an industry issue. But it’s a cultural issue. And maybe the answer is a change in culture to help stop the leaky bucket and get young drivers back on the road.

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