By James Clifford, CEO of HGVC
This time last year, the UK faced a shortage of around 100,000 HGV drivers leading to shortages on shelves, a lack of fuel at the pumps and numerous more supply chain shocks.
Whilst the immediate crisis has passed and headlines have subsided, the HGV driver shortage continues to put pressure on UK supply chains.
But while the Government and industry have made great strides to tackle the immediate problem, we believe greater professionalisation could help solve the underlying shortage.
That’s why we’re calling for the government to reform the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) and investigate how it can encourage the continued professionalisation of the industry.
How can better training help?
Research shows that a lack of career development is one of the reasons why drivers leave the industry - but more professionalised training can help.
Hauliers find staff development an effective way to keep drivers engaged in what they are doing and remain in the industry for longer.
What’s more, higher-skilled occupations in transport suffer fewer vacancies than lower-skilled occupations, according to a study by the think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
Studies also show that younger drivers value learning and development. This is echoed by hauliers who report that greater education and training initiatives would help to increase the appeal of the industry.
So, upskilling or ‘professionalising’ HGV driving may help to improve both recruitment and retention in the long term.
What do we need to do?
First, the Government must reform the Driver CPC.
The Government introduced the CPC in 2009 in response to legislation from the EU to ensure drivers are safe on the roads. It requires drivers to complete 35 hours of training every five years (a day a year) to keep their Driver Qualification Card (DQC) up to date.
However, since the Government introduced the CPC, drivers tell us that they see the training as irrelevant, repetitive, and costly.
As a result, rather than invest significant time and money to obtain the CPC, many older drivers chose retirement instead.
So, when the HGV driver shortage continues to be a persistent issue, we believe it’s time for a fundamental overhaul of the DQC.
A more sustainable approach to training
Rather than asking drivers to do 35 hours of training that repeats things they already know, we think the focus needs to be on helping drivers gain new skills throughout their careers.
Instead of repetitive programmes, courses could range from advanced driving skills, health and safety, hazardous loads and more.
Over time, providers should also look to cover issues such as technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and driverless trucks.
While these developments may be many years away, the Government and industry must think ahead if it is the ensure a valuable and valued sector.
Ultimately, we should be looking to continue to develop HGV drivers as the proper professionals they are. This means enabling drivers to take more responsibility, and ultimately command a higher salary.
If the Government wants to level up the UK, helping all workers become highly skilled will be critical. This applies as much to HGV drivers as it does to other professions.