GREATER DIVERSITY NEEDED: MPs say the haulage industry needs more drivers from a BME background
MPs HAVE warned that the government and the haulage industry is not doing enough to attract people from black and minority ethnic communities into the industry.
According to a recent report by the House of Commons transport select committee, there is a shortfall of tens of thousands of drivers to fill vacant positions. Nine out of 10 distribution companies have reported difficulties in recruiting drivers and the sector currently faces a shortage of 45,000 to 60,000 drivers – up to 15 per cent of the total needed.
A report also found that there were thousands of qualified drivers who had chosen not to enter the male-dominated industry and drive for a living. The MPs said this was due to a combination of factors, including the cost of acquiring a valid licence, poor employment
terms and inadequate roadside facilities.
The study found that more needs to be done to address these issues while also seeking
to change the balance of recruitment to train more female and black and minority ethnic (BME) drivers, who currently make up just three per cent of the haulage workforce. Of 400,000 people who hold a licence to drive a lorry or large goods vehicle, 92 per
cent are male. With some 64 per cent of truckers aged 45 or over and a further 40,000 due to leave the industry by next year, experts have warned of a looming labour
shortage in a sector vital for economic growth.
The report’s authors expressed concerns that the shortage of drivers could severely
impact the economy because ‘UK Plc relies on haulage’.
Louise Ellman, the Labour chairwoman of the committee, said:
“The road haulage sector has been short of skilled drivers for the past 10 years. The
familiar profile of the professional driver – over 45, white and male – will need to adapt.
“Who are the drivers of the future? Let’s look to female drivers, young drivers and BME drivers currently underrepresented in the sector.
“If people are unwilling to work in the sector, it is up to industry and Government to change perceptions. Almost everything we use in our daily lives has, at some point, been
transported by a large goods vehicle. UK Plc relies on them.”
The haulage industry has in recent years turned to Eastern Europe to try to make up for
the shortage of drivers and has called on the Government to ensure that the pool of available labour is not limited by restrictions arising from Brexit. The sector said it recognised the need to broaden its recruitment base, with just one per cent of drivers also aged 25 or under.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA), an industry body, said the issue of improved
roadside facilities was especially important if more women are to join the industry. Julie Maddocks, of the FTA, added:
“Lack of funding for vocational training for drivers means fewer are joining the industry and, there is a great risk that the shortage of HGV drivers could severely impact the economy."