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Summer madness for drivers again!

This is limiting the ability of the industry to come up with a long-term strategy that solves the serious structural issues that exist within the UK logistics market.

The Christmas peak is often commented on across the supply chain as an example of a successful major increase in volume.  Availability of drivers coupled with advanced planning means that agencies are able to deliver sufficient contingent labour to meet the brief, but dramatic, uplift in requirements.  

This success, along with the following four months where there is no shortage of drivers, is still in the minds of supply chain boardrooms when considering the summer.  The reality is that the summer is a much longer period, with both permanent and agency workforces being severely depleted by both planned holiday taking and ad hoc absence due to external factors such as the weather and sporting events.  The absence of a long-term strategy to address these issues means that the requirements of the summer peak may not be met this year.

Commenting on the seasonal peak issues ADR Network MD Andrew Waldron said, “There is an increasing awareness of the dangerously low number of LGV drivers serving the UK market. Agency drivers are not dissimilar to the rest of the population and are keen to take their holidays when the weather is at its best and when the schools have broken up. That means that the available pool of drivers is squeezed at a time when demand is highest.  This summer pattern was backed up by a recent survey we conducted of 1,000 agency drivers.  Corporate memories can be short and the four months of relative calm after Christmas do the industry no favours in terms of promoting longer term planning.”

There are other factors that need to be taken into account when forecasting demand for agency drivers. In addition to the unpredictability of good weather and sporting events, many agency drivers are attracted to the role because of the flexibility it offers which often means they are not available for part of the summer.  

We have seen this pattern repeated year on year. Current official unemployment figures are now stating that there are fewer than 1,000 job seekers with LGV driver as their stated profession. There is no longer any surplus or slack in the system to cover the absence requirements of the summer period.

The only long-term solution is to entice more people into a driving as a profession. Some organisations will not consider newly qualified drivers. This is a self-defeating stance and a major deterrent to attracting the desperately needed new entrants to the profession. Waldron thinks the industry needs a more creative outlook.

“I think as a profession we have all been a little guilty of putting our heads in the sand on the resourcing issue. It is a bit of Catch 22 situation, with all organisations wanting experienced drivers at a time when new drivers are not being offered work and older drivers are retiring. Younger drivers are viewed as a risk and whole parts of the community, such as women drivers, are not being encouraged by the profession. It is now time to see the seasonal shortage issue as a long term structural one that requires creative thinking and sustained effort by the stakeholders in the industry.”  



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