How driver shortages have developed

Trade union Unite recently warned that a combination of health problems, an ageing workforce and a failure to attract and recruit younger workers is creating a severe shortage of drivers that could damage the overall economy.

Unite has therefore urged the industry to invest in the health and welfare of drivers to reverse this. This came after Unite noted that the average age of drivers was 48 in 2016, up from 45.3 in 2001, and that 13 per cent are aged over 60, while just one per cent are under 25. In addition, about 43,000 to 60,000 drivers come from the European Union, which equates to roughly a quarter of all UK drivers. This is a figure that may well decline if and when the UK exits the EU.

Meanwhile, levels of injury and ill-health are high for the transportation and storage sector, which includes lorry drivers. The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive recorded that 52,000 workers suffered from a work related illness and 39,000 had reported a non-fatal injury. The most common form of workplace injury was musculoskeletal, accounting for 53 per cent of all cases, followed by stress, depression and anxiety, which accounted for 29 per cent of cases.

Research has found that driving, particularly long-haul (more than 250 miles from base), is recognised as an occupational detriment due to excessive anti-social working hours and unhealthy lifestyles. The risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, unhealthy diets, lack of exercise, lack of sleep and disturbed sleep and stress. This leads to diabetes, sleep apnoea and cardiovascular disorders. These disorders are subsequently linked to an increased risk of accidents.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “The UK is sleepwalking into a driving crisis and we face the genuine prospect of being unable to move goods around the UK, just at the time when Brexit means it is essential that our transport network is operating efficiently in order to keep the economy afloat.”

How the recruitment industry can help to bridge the gap

As we face a shortage of drivers, it is the responsibility of our industry to increase its efforts to recruit young and new drivers, while retaining and looking after the welfare of the existing workforce.

We cannot operate with an attitude that merely boils down to mercenary pay and working conditions and instead seek to provide better environments for drivers to work in. This includes reducing the number of people who work on a casual basis, something which often makes drivers ill and forces them to leave the industry before their normal retirement date.

Working conditions will only improve with the standardisation of pay, conditions and driver welfare. The stark truth is that even if one recruitment consultancy, such as CareerMakers, attempts to look after the health and welfare of its driving sector candidates, other agencies will fail to display the same courtesy unless a new framework is introduced across the board.

Here are three simple steps to help promote the welfare of workers

Flexible working arrangements

Flexible working can lead to a boost in productivity and morale. It can also provide mental and physical breaks from working long hours or driving long distances, while allowing workers to strike a good work-life balance

Mental health awareness

Wellness programs and counselling can help employees to feel less stressed and anxious, allowing them to focus properly on their day-to-day work and avoid long periods of absence.

Retirement coaching

Retirement brings with it a major personal and financial transition that many people are unprepared to navigate. Companies that offer training for life after working often foster positive morale, enhance productivity and promote mindful career planning.