Thursday, March 12, 2015

Freight and Road Haulage Interests Gather at Driver Crisis Summit

Minister Present to Hear the Pleas of the Industry
Shipping News Feature

UK – Solving the upcoming skills shortage in the trucking sector was the sole agenda at the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) recent one day Driver Crisis Summit, an event that proved to be so popular it had been oversubscribed, an indicator of how seriously the road haulage industry is taking the situation, with over 700 registering to hear industry experts from across the supply chain sharing their experiences and solutions on tackling the problem.

The FTA put the problem of recruiting and retaining professional drivers at centre stage throughout the day, tackling the issue head-on by telling the road freight industry not to just talk about the problem – but help solve it. The association was inundated with applications to attend the event at the Ricoh Stadium which had a capacity for 500 places. Concerns regarding the driver shortage issue have been raised by FTA members for a long time, many of who have said that there are not, and will not in the foreseeable future, be sufficient qualified professional drivers to deliver the nation’s goods.

According to the FTA, the industry is currently 40,000 drivers short and with 45,000 due to retire in the next two years, not including those who have to leave for medical reasons or who have found another job, whilst only 17,000 are estimated to be entering the industry annually. A joint approach between the FTA and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has helped to raise the profile of this issue, with the two industry groups recently meeting with Treasury officials to get some Governmental assistance with regards to funding.

The Solving the Driver Crisis Summit, sponsored by Volvo Trucks, focused on subjects including barriers to putting drivers on the road; how many drivers are needed to fill the void; how to change the image of the freight and logistics industry; broadening the appeal of driving and the best methods of recruiting and retaining drivers. Chairing the event was James Hookham, the FTA’s Managing Director of Policy and Communications, who said:

“The shortage of qualified drivers is a problem that only the road freight industry itself can solve. The aim of the FTA Solving the Driver Crisis Summit is to help those operators who recognise they need to do more to recruit and retain drivers to learn from the experiences and practices of their peers. We have also provided guidance on the ways that government is helping and can support the industry in the future. There remains the longstanding task of improving the public's perception of the sector and convincing prospective employees that this is a good place to work. The FTA Summit will set the agenda for the future.”

Key speakers who contributed during the event included Esther McVey, Minister of State for Employment, Rob Flello MP, and Peter Carroll, special advisor to the Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP, who discussed the Government’s perception of driving as a profession, and how it can support raising awareness of the shortfall of qualified professional drivers.

Photo: Truck drivers must get ever younger. Courtesy of Shout About Carolina.