The UK government has launched a consultation on the transport labour market and skills, which is due to run from February 2022 until Monday May 9th 2022. A summary of the responses received from stakeholders will then be published within three months.

In the Call for Views & Ideas document published as part of the consultation, the Department for Transport’s Transport Labour Market and Skills Team outlines the four themes that the industry must currently address:

  • Meeting the net zero challenge
  • Supporting local labour markets
  • Enhancing global competitiveness
  • Building diversity and skills

Between these four themes, the consultation represents an opportunity to share expertise and opinions on all aspects of working in transport, from public transport, road and rail, to qualifying as a haulage driver.

Why has the government launched this consultation?

Many transport-related disciplines are facing a labour shortage, including a lack of qualified candidates for tightly regulated roles, as well as a lack of interest shown by candidates from diverse and minority backgrounds.

This has been exacerbated in recent years by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted supply chains and temporarily shut down entire industries, and by Brexit which has made international road haulage and transport more difficult and time-consuming.

With these challenges in mind, the consultation focuses on five ‘pillars’ to help underpin the transport sector for future success:

  • Preparing for future skills
  • Improving training and employment
  • Promoting careers in transport
  • Boosting diversity, inclusion and social mobility
  • Building evidence and evaluating progress

It also adds that there must be a regional focus to help ensure prosperity arising from the transport sector is not disproportionately centred on London.

Does this include haulage?

Yes, it does. The consultation document recognises haulage as a key contributor to the national economy – and a potential source of significant challenges when qualified drivers are not available in adequate supply.

“We have also seen how important transport skills are to the wider economy,” the documents explains. “A shortage of HGV drivers has led to significant supply issues in parts of the economy creating a ripple effect across diverse sectors from hospitality, supermarkets, and construction.”

It’s easy to forget that the transport sector does not just include buses and trains, but also the movement of goods – and that has implications for the supply chains of all businesses in the UK.

Why is the labour shortage an issue?

A shortage of haulage drivers (or a crunch on availability) has ramifications for national supply chains. We have seen this on a number of occasions in recent years, when logistics problems have led to goods being in the wrong place at the right time:

  • KFC’s chicken shortage after changing logistics provider
  • Toilet paper and pasta during the first lockdown
  • Availability of petrol at some forecourts due to delayed delivery

While momentary peaks in demand are one cause of such problems, there can also be a supply crunch due to a shortage of labour – this is why many people furloughed during lockdown took jobs as couriers, to cater for the greater demand for home delivery.

As we move beyond the pandemic, the UK is still facing a shortage of HGV drivers decades in the making, with 60% of transport workers aged 40 or over, according to the ONS 2020 population survey.

Developments like Brexit are also impacting supply chains. Goods held at Customs cannot be stacked on shop shelves until the necessary paperwork is completed, and trucks parked at the gates of Dover cannot be used for international or domestic deliveries until they reach the front of the queue.

How can I avoid the haulage crunch?

The labour shortage and capacity crunch in the road haulage sector is a real concern and in the years ahead, it may not be possible to completely protect yourself from its effects, especially up and down your extended supply chain.

While you cannot isolate yourself, you can insulate yourself, by choosing to work with a haulage company you can trust.

Chris Bennett (Heavy Haulage) Ltd is a Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme Gold accredited haulage company. FORS Gold recognises our high levels of safety, efficiency, low emissions and generally improved operations.

We also comply with the CLOCS Standard for Construction Logistics and TfL’s Work Related Road Risk, allowing us to provide much-needed haulage services in London to sites with the highest safety and operational standards.

Although we cannot predict the road ahead, we can help you to navigate it safely – and we will do everything in our power to provide reliable haulage services, whatever happens elsewhere in your supply chain.

Contact us today to learn more.