The Department for Transport published the new Future of Freight plan, a roadmap for the UK road haulage sector, earlier this summer.

Spanning over 130 pages, the document not only addresses road haulage, but adopts a multimodal view of UK freight that includes deliveries by road, rail, air and water, as well as transfers between the different methods.

In the executive summary, the document notes the challenges posed by a variety of current trends and factors:

  • The emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
  • The transition to net-zero carbon neutrality
  • The ongoing implementation of Brexit
  • The introduction of new skills, people and technologies

Already during the pandemic, the government took 33 distinct actions to support UK road haulage, including an increase in capacity to test new HGV drivers, and the creation of new roadside facilities which saw a rise of new entrants into the profession.

Kickstart campaign for road haulage careers

Coinciding with the publication of Future of Freight, the DfT launched a major new campaign to attract and retain HGV drivers into the road haulage sector.

Generation Logistics is an online resource hub backed by £345,000 of government funds, and promoted by advertising on TV and radio.

Learning materials provided by the campaign aim to help individuals to prepare for a career in road haulage, helping to make it easier to kickstart a new working life as an HGV driver.

The backbone of Britain

Transport secretary Grant Shapps echoed the long-held view that road haulage is the ‘backbone’ of UK business.

He said: “The pandemic shone a spotlight on the importance of our country’s freight sector. As a proud, free-trading nation, moving goods at home and abroad has always been the backbone of Britain’s economy.

“Our 33 interventions to tackle the shortage of drivers means we now have a stable recruitment pipeline and a robust supply chain, and today’s measures will help the sector grow from strength to strength.”

Mr Shapps added that the government is committed to collaborating with the freight sector “to attract a strong pipeline of talent, decarbonise the freight network and deliver a world-class haulage sector”.

A stronger future for road haulage?

There’s no denying that the road haulage sector has faced unprecedented pressures for many years. Even before the pandemic, driver shortages were a persistent problem due to stringent qualification requirements and high retirement rates.

Coronavirus lockdowns put even greater demand on road haulage as the ‘final mile’ of door-to-door deliveries, and online retail sales have remained much higher than pre-pandemic levels even since physical stores began to reopen.

With high fuel prices in recent months, the pressure on British road haulage operators continues to grow – so it’s good to see the government engaging across the full range of issues, from Brexit to Net Zero.

As we move beyond the pandemic and the UK’s exit from the European Union, and hopefully move towards peace in Ukraine, the sector will continue to work hard to attract and retain capable drivers, to keep the backbone of the British economy strong for the future.

For a reliable, FORS-accredited haulage service, contact Chris Bennett today.