MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Road Freight and Logistics hear just 1% of drivers are under 25.
Industry representatives told the group that there is a shortfall of some 60,000 drivers and this could rise to 150,000 by 2020.
The oral evidence session was held as part of the APPG’s ongoing enquiry into the skills shortage in the industry. Those giving evidence were Kate Lester from Diamond Logistics, Mike Ponsonby from MA Ponsonby, Rod McKenzie from the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Nick Bithell, who leads the Trailblazer Apprenticeship Scheme at the Institute of Apprenticeships and is also HR Director at Knights of Old Group.
MP Sir Mike Penning, chairman of the Road Freight and Logistics APPG, said: “Damning statistics like this show it is simply outrageous that Government are not responding to the very fair asks of the industry to address this problem.
“Without urgent intervention from the Government the industry is going to be in extreme distress.
“We need to get hard-working and ambitious young people into these jobs and we need to utilise the talent that’s out there.”
Penning explained that one in five (20%) people who leave the military have a HGV licence and leave with skills that are relevant to the industry.
“We need to work harder on schemes to make the industry more attractive to young people and to people who already have the skills we need,” he said. “It’s a win-win if we get this right.’’
McKenzie, managing director of the RHA, added: “In its current form, the Apprenticeship Levy is simply not working. The industry has paid in £280 million since 2017, and only been able to draw out £12m.
“The reason is simple, the Department for Education and the Institute for Apprenticeships are dragging their heels in approving the apprenticeship our industry needs. This is an industry that is working to the tightest margins and yet is being made to pay into a pot of money it can never access.
“Added to that, we have been waiting for over three years to hear whether the Department for Transport will back our Road to Logistics programme.
“We are asking for £1m to kickstart this valuable initiative to work side by side with funds from industry and yet we hear nothing back. We are just being passed from pillar to post.”
Commenting on reasons why the industry is struggling to attract new recruits Lester, CEO of Diamond Logistics, said: “Drivers are unfairly viewed as the pariahs of society and that needs to change.
“Our drivers are our ambassadors, they are an indispensable resource in our industry, an industry that is the lifeblood of the country.
“Government should be championing their contribution so that the wider public understand how vital they are and show them the respect that they deserve.”
Ponsonby reflected on levels respect not just from the public and Government but also at drop-off points. He said: “There have been occasions where my drivers have been refused use of the toilet at the delivery point. This is disgraceful and a clear breach of the ‘Welfare Regulations Occupier’s’ duty to visiting drivers.”
He continued: “We need more overnight parking and public toilets on the road network, because at the moment, this lack of public facilities is making drivers leave the industry, with few new drivers joining to replace them.
“Therefore, I would strongly urge the Government to invest in new facilities, as truck drivers are the unsung heroes of the road transport industry and keep supermarket shelves full.”
Commercial Fleet has previously highlighted how a failure to deliver safe, secure rest areas and address shortcomings in the apprenticeship levy were damaging efforts to tackle the driver shortage.
It also suggested that the cost of acquiring a HGV licence – some £3,000 – remains a major barrier for young people entering the profession, and poor parking facilities do nothing to improve their perception of the industry.
For ideas on how to solve the driver recruitment crisis, come to Fleet Live on October 8-9 at the NEC in Birmingham where Martin Colloff, Hermes UK head of client and network distribution, and Kieren Smith, Driver Require chief executive, will be offering their solutions.
Click fleet-live.co.uk for information