Logistics and the driver shortage was the focus for BBC Radio Northampton’s Stuart Linnell at Breakfast show, which was broadcast on Wednesday 29August. Logistics is important to Northampton – the sector employs some 45,000 people but it is warning of a crisis due to the shortage of LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) drivers. Dr Ross Moloney, CEO of Skills for Logistics was invited onto the show to discuss the issues.

In Northamptonshire right now, for every one candidate qualified to be a lorry driver there are nine vacancies. We have reached this pinch point even before the economy picks up and gets going.

This is a UK wide problem. Logistics operators are struggling to recruit drivers, yet it is estimated that the UK needs an extra 150,000 drivers by 2020.

The average age of a LGV driver is 53 – much higher than the national average. Many are coming up to retirement while not enough young people are coming up to replace them. This could have a significant impact on supply chain management – ie, how goods are moved around.

Look around you now. Most of what you can see has been delivered by a lorry at some part of its supply chain journey. As the UK looks to grow, the economy we will need more lorry drivers. How can we be a manufacturing base without an infrastructure to deliver things to the market or to warehouses? This is a fundamental challenge facing the country.

There are five issues that have brought the sector to this pinch point:

Economic growth – both domestic and international – creates more demand for drivers to move what we are producing and hope to consume. The sector’s average age is 53 – much higher than other sectors; 13 per cent are over 60 and worryingly only 2 per cent of drivers are under 25. The perception of logistics, which is not traditionally seen as a ‘career of choice’. Changing needs around training. The technology in modern logistics establishments is phenomenal. More directives from the EU that demand that our drivers have mandatory Certificate for Professional Competence. You have to be more skilled to be a driver than before. We sometimes think that ‘free delivery’ means there isn’t a value to it but driving is a professional occupation that can go places – quite literally of course – leading to a proper career. That’s a perception we are working to instill within school children and others who may not understand what logistics is.

driver shortage

Everything you see, wherever you are right now is there because of the logistics. No wonder the sector as a whole is the fourth biggest employer in the country. That shocks people the first time they hear it but we really are the driving force of the economy.

We need more lorry drivers but what are we going to do about it? We are working to overcome barriers to entry. Licence acquisition is expensive but we are working with government to find ways to support people. There are local initiatives but we are trying to get to a national strategy to support people who want to be lorry drivers. Employers and individuals want more visibility of the standard of training in the sector, which is something we are currently looking at Skills for Logistics.

Driving is a job that really suits some people while for others it’s not appropriate. We are trying to myth bust and make it really clear to people the job they are getting themselves into. In terms of LGV driver pay, it depends on who you work for and the hours that you work. It can range from about £500 per week up to £40,000 for drivers delivering valuable and/or dangerous loads such as petrol.

In addition to lorry drivers the whole of the UK’s logistics sector needs well-trained and skilled talent. It might take some time but if you are interested in logistics and driving, it will definitely be interested in you – Logistics is a job for life.