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Driver Shortage?

Not a paid assignment for Aricia, but a body of pro bono research that demonstrates our engagement with industry and the sort of mission-critical reality check that we can deliver. The alleged UK driver shortage has become a 'brand' and almost universally accepted received wisdom. But there are no fairies at the bottom of the garden, and no driver shortage either. Identifying and drilling into key data, and making paid FOI requests, we have confirmed that the largest LGV-qualified group in the country is formed of people who choose not to drive, and who perceive a shortage of adequate remuneration, of respect, of facilities and of acceptable safe scheduling. This is a driver crisis which will become worse with Brexit, but not a driver shortage, and we are ready to help businesses avoid similarly fundamental misconceptions in these challenging times.

Our most recent contribution in this area has been to the House of Lords' European Union Committee on Brexit: road, rail and maritime transport - see para 51 and the evidence provided on the length of the driver's working day.

For our most up to date (Nov 2018) analysis in this area, read the four-pager here: Driver Crisis and a shortened version with reverse coloured graphs (sorry but they didn't print well!) that was published in Focus in Feb 2019 here: Why don't people want to be truck drivers? - I don't expect that it will surprise anyone that I'm struggling to find any organisation interested in carrying out a YouGov poll with a view to trying to permanently solve the issue.

And here is Kirsten's groundbreaking and influential piece on driver numbers: There is No Driver Shortage, and then some spin-offs...

Transport Select Committee Report on Skills and workforce planning in the road haulage sector - not by Kirsten, but refers to her research in Note 48 as part of the section "A driver shortage?" - very pleased to have helped to clarify the situation and influenced government thinking!

Driver numbers: Retention and Age profile - a presentation given by Kirsten to the Executive Leaders Network in March 2016 around these two issues.

Thousands of LGV licence holders not driving trucks - this one not by Kirsten, but a piece by Richard Simpson in Jan/Feb 2016 Transport Operator in which he quotes Kirsten, and then takes the theme a step further: is the problem actually an oversupply of drivers?

And an article by Kirsten from 2004 on the same topic: 2004 Motor Transport - Driver Shortage

The remainder of this page is all pieces from our logistics and retail updates page which will have some interest or relevance to those interested in the driver crisis including a 2018 update on numbers.

No driver shortage at the moment

4 April 2020

Well, this is a different sort of an update for the different sort of time we live in. No stats or graph, more of a blog, but very relevant to the logistics industry.

Coronavirus gets going and everyone is panic buying – the grown-ups make a fuss about people shopping, telling people it’s unnecessary. But the concept of the need to feed the nation is born, with drivers hours regs relaxed to accommodate. My husband who has an up to date CE licence and medical, but let his DCPC expire in September, feels that he ought to be available to help this push to get food to where it needs to be. So he books a DCPC course starting Monday 23 March.

We get up two mornings running at 4.30am for him to be early for a 7.30 start on the other side of the Cotswolds. First day (long story – we’re not stupid and we did our best on Saturday on the web and by phone), he doesn’t find it until c8am and is told that he and another latecomer can’t join the course. So he comes home. That evening Johnson makes an announcement, but no-one from the training rings to say it’s not going ahead, so we have another 4.30am get up – this time there are three of them hanging around in the street – the trainer never appears, doesn’t ring...

At this point we’re £450 down and the company that he booked the course through are refusing to refund his money. After a bit of argy bargy, they do get him booked on the first-ever internet-based driver CPC course, and so we spent the whole of last week with our home office given up to all-day all-week Zoom-based training.

We’d agreed that because of my husband’s age (he’s not 'old', but if he catches Coronavirus, they won’t consider reviving him a high priority on the basis of his birth certificate!), he was only going to drive if it involved foods, pharmaceuticals etc – things that were really necessary.

So what’s the point of telling you this – well, there’s certainly no driver shortage at the moment. There’s certainly no excuse for further relaxation of the drivers hours regs. He rang one of the local agencies during the week – there’s no driving work of any kind. End of.

Why don't people want to be HGV drivers?

10 November 2018

There is a driver crisis, but we need to tackle it rather than exaggerate. We need to make the jobs attractive. There are over 940K people with HGV licences and up to date medicals, including over 100K people aged 25-45 with C+E licences who choose not to use them. There is a crisis, not a shortage. If you want to understand the graph fully, then read my four-pager here: Driver Crisis

Aricia Update - Driver Crisis - 10 November 2018 - driver numbers - driver ages - Logistics Statistics

Quick to cut, slow to recruit?

5 September 2018

At first glance the data released by the ONS (Office for National Statistics) during the past month on the number of people employed in transport and storage doesn't seem to tell any fresh stories. What it has shown since the financial crisis is that there was a much bigger comparative drop in the number of people employed in our sector than for the economy overall, and not just on a one-off basis.

The purple line (all in employment) on the graph below only really does a bit of a plateau following the collapse of Lehman Brothers et al. Whereas the red line (transport & storage) shows a drop of more than 12%, despite the increasing work content of burgeoning ecommerce. It's worth noting at this point that transport and storage does include passenger transport as well as logistics-related employment. It appears that our efficient and flexible transport & logistics industry was better and/or more able (compelled by cost control or perhaps because of low commitment to agency staff) at reducing personnel in a way that was not typical of the economy as a whole.

What also happened following the financial crash was that vacancies in transport and storage (not shown on graph, but in data released by the ONS at the same time) ran at a lower rate than for the economy in general. As a low margin industry we tend to use overtime as a first resort and hold off on recruitment until it becomes imperative. And the seasonal nature of our industry also means that we're loath to take on people for December who won't be needed come February. But, although we're back to a similar rate of vacancies per 100 employee jobs as the rest of the economy in this latest set of data, at peak last year we did move ahead and continue to have more than 40K vacancies (that's including warehouse staff and passenger transport), albeit still with a lower rate of vacancies than for a number of other sectors.

Aricia Update Graph - Transport & Storage Employment - 5 September 2018 - Vacancies - Logistics Statistics

Update on driver numbers

21 August 2017

Last week the BBC carried the news that UK unemployment has fallen to a 42-year low, and I imagine that there are people in the logistics industry thinking that the driver crisis will get worse.

During August, two stats that are of interest to the road transport industry have been released by the ONS: the SPPI index for freight transport by road and the number of people working as LGV drivers. Earlier this summer, and for the first time in over a year, the figures for the number of people with LGV licences was released by DVLA. And also, during the spring, the FTA's Logistics Report 2017.

The graph below shows the various driver related-figures - the number of C&CE licences (on the left hand side) is for GB only, the number of people working as large goods vehicle drivers (the middle block) is for the UK including Northern Ireland. The relative size of the 'shortage' can clearly be seen - the tiny block on the right hand side of the graph.

This update continues below the graph...

Aricia Update Graph - driver numbers - HGV - LGV - DVLA - DfT - ONS - FTA - 21 August 2017 Logistics Statistics

The number of licences held is for people with medicals, but not necessarily DQCs it would take just a week's training, with no test, for that not to be an issue if someone wanted to get work in our industry. It looks as if CE(db) is drivers with a 102 code - ie restricted to drawbars, although I'd like to see that in writing. It doesn't include more than a quarter million provisional LGV licences.

What the SPPI index for freight transport by road shows (not on the graph) is that haulage rates have risen by less than 1% over the whole of the past five years.

Brexit is coming and the driver crisis is not about to solve itself - something has to change.

You can find the various sets of statistics here:

If you found this piece interesting, you may be interested in our page on the driver crisis.

Driving - The Nation's Hardest Workers

1 November 2016

I wasn't intending to revisit the topic of drivers' hours, but last week the ONS (Office for National Statistics) published the latest Annual Survey of Hours & Earnings. Among a wide variety of statistics, they include paid hours worked by occupation, one of which is "Transport and mobile machine drivers and operatives" - wider than HGV drivers, it includes approx 670K full-time workers.

A quick explanation before looking at the graph. The median is the value below which 50% of jobs fall. It is ONS's preferred measure of average as it is less affected by a relatively small number of very high values. It therefore gives a better indication of "typical" than the mean. And percentiles mark the values below which certain proportions of jobs fall - for example, the 75th percentile is the value below which 75% of jobs fall.

What the graph below shows is the estimated hours worked per week across all occupations in the UK (red) and those worked for Occupation Code 82, Transport and mobile machine drivers and operatives (blue). The different shading shows median (deep colour), 75th percentile (lighter colour) and 90th percentile (outline only).

It can be seen that this occupation grouping, which includes HGV drivers, works considerably more hours than the UK average for full-timers (to which, of course, it is a contributor), and is the occupation (out of 34 groups) with the highest median, 75th and 90th percentiles.

Aricia Update Graph - ASHE - Annual Survey of Hours & Earnings - 1 November 2016 - ONS - Drivers Hours - Logistics Statistics

Some other notes: ASHE covers employee jobs in the United Kingdom. It does not cover the self-employed, nor does it cover employees not paid during the reference period. I've used the figures for full-time (so no part-time employees included). It should be noted that these figures are provisional and are accompanied by indications of their likely accuracy.

Could Brexit deliver positive change in UK logistics?

24 October 2016

The newspapers are currently full of all the disadvantages, both realised and potential, that arise from the "decisive result"* in the EU referendum. Assuming the country does go ahead with Brexit, there is potential improvement it could bring to the logistics industry and that is revision of hours rules that apply to drivers of heavy goods vehicles on non-international journeys.

In fairness to the EU, I think that the legislators had envisaged time would be more controlled by the amount of driving that could be undertaken, and hadn't foreseen a situation where the UK driver's life consisted of so much hanging around for one reason and another. Are the long days that have resulted, certainly in this country, one of the things that stops driving being an attractive job option?

Before EU drivers' hours regulations came along, the Transport Act of 1968 restricted the driver's working day to 12.5 hours through what was referred to as "spreadover".

And that was the case up until the amendments in 1986, which abolished the 1968 limits on driver duty when a driver was covered by EC rules - the new provisions on rest periods within the EC rules were seen as effectively limiting the hours for which a driver could be on duty.

In 2005 the Working Time Directive was applied to the road transport industry, with the very weak interpretation of PoAs (Periods of Availability) that was adopted in the UK. And that weak interpretation was accompanied by a casual approach to its use, in many ways turning what should have been protective legislation into just another administrative task.

However, until 2007, any reduction in daily rest from 11 to 9 hours still had to be made up by the end of the following week. After EC regulation 561/2006 was introduced in April 2007, no rest compensation was required.

Could a return to the past be helpful? Certainly pay would need to reflect the change as drivers would still have the same rent to pay and families to feed. It would not be an easy pill for industry to swallow. But I'm interested in how much could be made up for by efficiencies: reducing PoAs, which are often effectively an admission of wasted driver time. Would limiting the length of the working day back to the 12.5 hour spreadover help to make the job more attractive?

That change in April 2007 means that each and every week can include three 15 hour days. And after each of those 15 hours days, the driver needs to travel home, eat and say goodnight, before sleeping for a few hours and then getting up again ...quite probably at what I've seen described as stupid o'clock. Would you want to work those hours?

*37.4% of the UK electorate voted "Leave" in the EU referendum.

As this update is more of a blog, with no statistics as such, I've gone for a Wordle rather than a graph this time - click the pic to see how to create your own:

Aricia Update - Brexit - drivers hours - legislation - spreadover - 24 October 2016 - Logistics - Wordle

Update on 9 Nov: It's great to see this piece reported on in Transport Operator as part of a piece on driver wages.

A handle on driver age profile for the first time?

16 November 2015

Over the past month or so, I've published a couple of pieces on the driver shortage and age profile of HGV drivers - one in the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport's Focus magazine, and the other as an update on our own website and as a Linkedin post. The more I've researched it, the more interested I've become in the paucity of statistics around this issue. Previously published figures didn't reveal what was happening between the ages of 35 and 64 - it could even have been interpreted as being pretty flat if you didn't know the industry. And these are the figures decision makers see and use.

So I made a special request for data from the Office for National Statistics which was published earlier today - I'm very grateful for the prompt response! This data is in five year age bands (apart from the very youngest and oldest drivers), and to my knowledge is the first time that these figures have been published at this level of granularity. You can see some of this data included in the graph (update continues below graph).

Aricia Update Graph - HGV Driver Numbers - by age band - 16 November 2015 - ONS - Logistics Statistics

What are the headlines from the graph and other fresh statistics?

  • There were less HGV drivers employed July to September 2015 than in the previous quarter and against the same period last year - interesting
  • The profile is anything but flat between 35 and 64 - we all knew it wasn't, but now everyone can see that is the case
  • Over the past year, the age band with the largest number of drivers stopped being 45-49 and moved to 50-54 - drivers are getting older
  • The number of over 65s continues to increase - drivers are getting even older
  • But the real headline is that we can see the age profile properly for the first time

Where does this information come from? It comes from the Labour Force Survey, and I quote: The primary purpose of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) is "providing good quality point in time and change estimates for various labour market outputs and related topics". The labour market covers all aspects of people's work, including the education and training needed to equip them for work, the jobs themselves, job-search for those out of work, and income from work and benefits.

How do they establish how many HGV drivers there are? The sorts of questions asked in the surveys to establish what work people do include "What was your (main) job (in the week ending Sunday the [date])?", "What did you mainly do in your job?" and "What did the firm/organisation you worked for mainly make or do (at the place where you worked)?". The surveys also ask about work-related and vocational qualifications such as HGV and forklift licences.

Now a survey is a survey. ONS will have designed the sample to give statistically significant results - indeed some of the supporting documentation describing how they go about this runs to over 100 pages a piece. With the sample consisting of about 100,000 individuals per quarter, large goods vehicle drivers representing about 1% of the workforce and then broken into 10 age bands, it doesn't take a mathematician to see that there is room for the figures to have some 'flexibility'. But overall they contribute to the same storyline.

What it would be good to see now is data about ALL large goods vehicle drivers - the DVLA DQC data that was published by the FTA earlier this year, split by narrower age-bands. At the same time that I asked the ONS (who it has to be said are set up to provide statistics, by definition) for enhanced data, I also asked DLVA ...early days, but I've yet to have a reply to my email.

You can access the data and read about how to interpret it.

And here's some Linkedin conversation following the update above:

Linkedin conversation - Jonathan Rose - Charles Cawley

National Lorry Week - #LoveTheLorry

29 October 2015

The RHA needs to be congratulated on the initiative that is National Lorry Week and the #LoveTheLorry / #HGVHeroes campaign. And its members need to be thanked for rising to the occasion and putting on imaginative events around the country, demonstrating to the public that the industry takes pride in its task of delivering the daily miracle that is logistics. It's inspiring, and we all need to hope that it will attract new drivers. No-one should be in any doubt that the industry desperately needs them, with younger HGV drivers coming on-stream at less than a third of the rate required to replace older ones.

RHA members as a group were hit hard by the drop of business in the recession, with tonnage carried by mainly public carriers dropping by more than a third over two years. Own account operators kept their business in house and had a much more stable workload, with tonne-km even going up over those same two years. Unfortunately the latest DfT figures in this area are for 2013, so it's not possible for me to say where things are today, but no doubt those same RHA members will be expecting and wanting to take up increased business but with a limited key resource, namely HGV drivers.

What is available for June 2015, is the licensing figures, which show that there are 7% less HGVs than in 2007, although those vehicles have been getting heavier - in 2000 around 26% of artics were over 40 tonnes, whereas by 2013 this had risen to 77%. And HGV mileage has been reducing - by 2013 over 10% less than in 2000. I know that some believe the reduction in HGV miles is a good thing, potentially demonstrating efficiencies in our industry, but I don't think that view can be supported - in the same period, light van traffic rose by over 30%. Now, the nature of the jobs some of those vans carry out, like delivering to homes and restricted town centres, cannot be undertaken by bigger vehicles, but we need to avoid the situation where vans are being used as a substitute for proper trucks because they don't require an HGV driver.

Now some may regard my next point as history, but I'm going to raise it as I believe its ghost is still haunting us. The removal of the 12.5 hour spreadover back in 1986 facilitated, at best, laxness to creep in when scheduling drivers - agency drivers waiting for work, spending an eight hour day in the works canteen before being given five drops in central London. At worst it allowed managers to contemplate scheduling workers' lives in a way where day drivers could morph into night drivers. And when the Mobile Workers Directive came in, Periods of Availability allowed that laxness to continue. However, hauliers now rely on this flexibility to get the job done. And therein lies the rub.

Commentators who say that people know about the conditions and long hours when they come into the industry are missing the point. One has to ask how many older drivers would come into the industry today, particularly as agency drivers. It's not about those already in the industry, they are putting up with it - this is about attracting fresh blood, and fast.

So congratulations and thanks to the RHA and its members - I want to be able to carry on buying food and all the other stuff, and I'm grateful to everyone who gets it there!

And here's some Linkedin conversation following the update above:

Linkedin conversation - RHA - Steve Bowles - Alan White

Time to look outside?

30 July 2015

Earlier this month Croner published this year's Distribution & Transport Rewards - always an excellent source of information.

One's immediate reaction is to be a little bit surprised that, with all the talk of the driver shortage, median average earnings for a Class C+E driver have taken a bit (4%) of a dip in the latest survey and median basic pay is continues to be down against 2013. Now, any survey depends on who participates, and it could be that a high paying company has dropped out. But now we're in the new normal following the recession, it's as important to understand what wages can buy, and where they're pitched, as what they are per se. To what extent does all the hard work of getting and maintaining a class 1 licence pay for itself?

The graph below shows Class C+E basic pay and average earnings over the past 10 years as a percentage of corresponding light vehicle driver wage levels. Back in 2005, following the first wave of eastern Europeans arriving in 2004, an artic driver could expect a 20% premium for having his (or her) licence. Despite the ups and downs, that premium has now risen to 40% or more depending on whether it's basic or earnings that you're looking at. So why isn't that attracting younger people as professional drivers, while the number of vans continues to grow? Continued below graph...

Aricia Update Graph - Driver pay - class C+E - HGV - LGV - vans - Croner - 30 July 2015 - logistics statistics

Now, the van drivers' wages may well be pulled down by part-time working, although using the median is likely to have removed this as a factor, but it raises the issue of flexibility. Back in 2004 I wrote a Viewpoint for Motor Transport, very little of which is out of date. Perhaps it's time to repeat the research referred to in my article, which is still available: SfL Scotland Survey 2003 - the comments from former drivers are important, particularly as this group were still sufficiently interested in LGVs and the road haulage industry to have attended Truckfest, where this element of research was carried out.

In the recent CILT survey on the driver shortage, question 27 asked: What factors do you think are responsible for the driver shortage? I'm guessing that this has been completed by managers, but there's no real point in interviewing current drivers - two reasons: they've stuck with it and many of them don't represent the future workforce.

Perhaps there's a need to research outside our own industry and find out what people like about their jobs and explore whether those factors can be replicated for truck drivers.