Pall-Ex Group has joined other leading logistics businesses in highlighting the crisis the industry faces as a result of crippling driver shortages.
As the average age of HGV drivers in the UK continues to increase, currently standing at 56, and fewer young people enter the industry, Pall-Ex Group shareholder member businesses are struggling to find drivers to carry out collections and deliveries in a time when demand for such services has increased significantly.
The skills gap and the resulting climate has resulted in a situation where stock shortages of household items and grocery essentials are already being seen and has been described as a “perfect storm” by Paul Sanders, Chairman of the Association of Pallet Networks (APN) in an open letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
Pall-Ex Group operates two pallet networks in the UK, Pall-Ex and Fortec, and independent haulage businesses are shareholder members of each network.
These members are facing the challenge head on to continue to deliver sector leading levels of service for customers across the UK.
When surveyed, 74% of Pall-Ex Group members said that they were affected by driver shortages every single day, and 100% said that the situation was causing their business to suffer.
One such member is Pall-Ex shareholder member STD Developments Limited of Congleton, Cheshire, and Managing Director, Craig Stevens, has explained the impact the driver shortage is having on his business.
He comments: “We are finding it hard to continue to deliver the quality service we have built our reputation on. It is something that our customers and fellow network members now expect from us.
“If things carry on the way they are going, profits will start to drop and we will be forced to increase our prices, as will all other transport businesses. This will have a massive impact on the price of goods purchased in the UK.”
Asked about how he believes the shortage can be rectified, Craig continues: “There needs to be a greater incentive for young people to get into driving HGVs.
“Providing support with the cost of training and forcing insurance companies to cover new drivers would be a step in the right direction to solving the problem.”
Mirroring the sentiment shared by Craig and the team at STD Developments, Fortec Shareholder member Brocklehurst Transport Ltd is also experiencing the challenges brought about by the driver shortage.
Dave Webster, Managing Director of Brocklehurst Transport Ltd, comments: “If nothing changes, we will have to park our trucks up. We will not be able to operate as a business.
“To improve the situation, I’d like to see a relaxation of the CPC regulations allowing drivers, whose certification has lapsed, to come back into the business and have 12 months grace to complete refresher training.”
In addition, Dave continues: “The Government needs to encourage insurance companies to lower the minimum age from 25 to 21, as this means so many more talented young drivers can enter the industry. This would be a massive help!”
Kevin Buchanan is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pall-Ex Group and has been a member of the transport industry for over 30 years, in which time he has held various positions, both managerial and operational.
With his wealth of experience, he understands how important skilled drivers are to the logistics industry as a whole, as well as Pall-Ex Group and its members.
He comments: “As an industry, we are facing one of the greatest challenges of a generation.
“The combination of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded the driver shortage that has been an ever-increasing threat for several years.
“Drivers having to isolate and those who have chosen to leave the industry because of covid, as well as a vastly reduced talent pool thanks to most European drivers no longer having freedom of movement into the UK has seen the number of skilled drivers fall off a cliff in the last 18 months.”
Stressing the importance of action, Kevin says: “The government must act immediately to protect the supply chain that has kept Britain moving for the last 18 months.
“The government has always been slow to recognise the transport sector as a key industry in this country. But now, more than ever, it is vital that it does not neglect the heroes who were hailed as key workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, who transported everything from life-saving medical supplies to toilet roll. That simply cannot be allowed to happen.”
Pall-Ex Group is the latest leading transport business to call on the government to save the industry and put urgent measures in place to prevent a crisis.
For more information about driving opportunities within Pall-Ex Group, please visit www.pallex.co.uk/vacancies.