Opinion piece written for Motor Transport
Given the amount of publicity there has been around the shortfall of HGV drivers, it may have been more appropriate for the RHA to rename its National Lorry Week (25th-31st October) as National Lorry Drivers Week.
Its aim is to highlight just how important the logistics industry is to this country and to showcase the huge variety of career opportunities available. Given the acres of newsprint and endless hours of airtime devoted to the subject, together with reports on
the delays in goods reaching the shelves, everyone now must have got the message. The driver shortage has been a talking point within the industry for several years but few outside seemed aware of it or, if they did, were indifferent. Now that the real-life consequences of the driver shortage are plain to both politicians and the public, I believe the haulage industry and its drivers will in future be much more appreciated. The publicity is sure to lead more people to consider a career in the cab, while I hope drivers will be treated more professionally by the manufacturers and distribution centres that they deal with day in, day out. Not too long ago, during the first lockdown, it was common to find drivers arriving to collect or drop off loads only to be refused access to toilet facilities. As a company we even took the step of issuing our drivers with a health authority letter which warned this was illegal under health and safety legislation. I know many companies were trying to guard against the spread of COVID-19, but there were instances of drivers being told that distribution centre toilets were for employees only well before the pandemic arrived. And then there was the incessant hanging about. Drivers would arrive at a distribution centre early, only to be told they must wait until their allotted time, while those arriving at their allotted time, could still face an unproductive wait of four or five hours – with the resulting havoc to their schedules. These days the power dynamic has shifted, with distribution centres more dependent on the hauliers. Because of the huge demand, transport firms are now choosing the easiest places to make deliveries to. Those manufacturers and retailers making things difficult for drivers and their employers quickly find themselves a much lower priority. Given the pressure on logistics, haulage firms simply can’t afford delays – because that’s time that could be spent delivering even more loads. However, it shouldn’t be an us and them situation. Everyone needs to work together to ensure the entire logistics system runs like clockwork to alleviate the worst effects of the driver shortage. Here at Moody Logistics, we have already walked away from the government’s driver apprentice scheme, which was becoming far too long-winded. Instead, we have set up our own self-funded programme – and our first two driver apprentices graduated with their Class 2 licences within five months. One is a former van driver and the other worked in property management, and I earnestly hope they – along with the two driver apprentices we’ve just recruited - represent a new generation of truck drivers untainted by some outdated 1970’s stereotype and who instead will be appreciated and respected.