Truckers being “underpaid and under-appreciated for the better part of two decades” is responsible for the ever-worsening driver shortage plaguing Europe and America.

Figures for the UK alone suggest the full scale of the driver shortage may not be realised for some time, but reputedly there is a shortfall of at least 100,000 and very little to suggest a fix is forthcoming.

One former driver told The Loadstar they moved to warehouse work as it paid the same, gave them more time with their family and because driving left them feeling like “shit”.

MD of James Kemball Kevin Williams said that while much of the attention had focused on driver wages, there was a plethora of other issues that needed addressing if the problem is to be fixed.

“I think it’s fair to say during any one week, drivers have experienced unsociable hours linked to container work and numerous other challenges,” Mr Williams told The Loadstar. “These include port delays, daily traffic issues and further delays unloading/loading at our customer premises. In some instances, we have had drivers refused basic facilities such as toilet/washing facilities.

“It is not until we complain that they get the access they should have been offered from the start. Happy to report, this has now stopped and we don’t have any recent incidents.”

Government intervention has failed to quell any of the problems, although it has caused a rupture between drivers and the associations that represent them, with the latter slamming a temporary extension to permitted hours as putting “drivers in danger”.

Drivers themselves, however, welcomed the initiative, noting that an extra hour was “neither here, nor there” and would allow them the opportunity to “get home”.

Mr Williams did not comment on the extension but recognised the difficulty drivers faced staying out on the road, noting that “after all [the delays], drivers have to then contend with finding a safe place to park”.

He added: “This is becoming increasingly harder, as thieves become increasingly bolder and target services we would normally have selected as secure.”

James Kemball has announced plans for a new pay deal this week, structured to link future pay and bonuses to company profit, which Mr Williams hopes will enable the company to recruit more drivers.

He added: “We’ll continue to consider drivers who want to work part time/flexible hours, as we take back the control of holiday/sickness cover, so we’re not so dependent on agencies.”

However, he noted that the historic practice of drivers “chasing hours and money” was drying up, as the workforce became increasingly older. Kemball’s youngest driver is 38 and its oldest 72.

One driver told The Loadstar drivers working into their 70s was now increasingly common. But Mr Williams said it presented a problem for haulage firms as many drivers in the older age brackets had greater financial security and were therefore looking to reduce hours just as the opposite is needed.

He added: “We will all need to encourage newcomers into our industry and undertake training to ensure we have enough drivers for the future, and provide opportunities to drivers who have passed their test but need to gain experience.”

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  • Dave Holladay

    July 15, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    The greatest impact seems likely on those cutting the cost of a permanent employee driver cohort, and running an orange disc fleet, with agency drivers, which I’ve noticed, used to regularly be EU27, often coming over for intensive work, often seasonal, and returning a few months later with a healthy wad of money

    Add to this the loss of back-working Irish vehicles & drivers, now massively transferring to the Cork/Rosslare-France/Spain sailings, and often load-only, making more effective use of drivers & tractors,

    Plus the other EU27 no longer crossing to the UK – one forwarder with 30 years of filling outward or back load space reckoned that c.80% of the trucks & drivers coming through Dover were EU27, who have now stopped coming, blowing a hole in available ‘opportunity’ capacity

    On of the longer term deliveries is in the nascent UK Cycle Logistics sector. Here are base-level jobs to engage those new to working, local work, a job that can break the Catch 22 of no references = no jobs but no job = no reference. Riders can work their way up, learning the logistics industry, and moving onwards. We see similar with other cycle projects – kids who have practical potential, often dropped by the academic system (some as young as 12 and long term truants) have rocked up to fix bikes, gained mechanics skills, and moved on to maintain and repair other machinery. We have an immense labour resource but fail to engage with it?

    The local logistics also makes a more efficient use of the right vehicle for the work, using the new tools of electronic data and tracking to disperse or consolidate traffic for the journeys, and vehicle sizes that fit resources better