How to attract new talent into the driving profession
Recent years have seen a growing crisis in attracting and retaining HGV drivers. In 2021, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimated that there’s now a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK, while our Talent Shortage Survey has found driving to be among the top ten hardest skills to find. And the well-reported driver shortage is set to continue.
A massive 98% of HGV drivers are men with an average age of 48, meaning that as these drivers reach retirement age, there aren’t enough new workers to replace them. Since Brexit, our supply of overseas drivers has also reduced considerably, and our domestic capacity is too low to meet the current demand.
Short term methods to blunt this recent crisis include hefty signing bonuses for permanent drivers, increased pay rates and temporary relaxations of border rules with the EU. However, these quick-fix measures do not make for a long-term solution.
In order to combat the driver talent shortage sustainably, employers need to do more to engage talent pools historically underutilised by the logistics sector. Here’s a three-part strategy for organisations:
1. Attracting women into the driving profession
Currently, just 1% of all HGV drivers in the UK are female. This is partly due to a lot of long-standing preconceptions about the industry – that considerable physical strength is needed, that there is limited support over long hours, and that sexism is widespread among the workforce. While the industry is changing, employers need to actively challenge the stereotypes surrounding it and implement measures to make sure the driving profession offers a welcoming, supportive environment for women.
In 2021, Manpower launched the Women in Driving Development Pathway with the support of government, client partners and industry bodies. This programme takes action to tackle the driving skills shortage and improve diversity within the logistics sector. By supporting women to take part in the programme, they are offered all the necessary tools to launch a successful career as an HGV driver, such as training, certification, mentoring and work experience.
2. Make driving appealing to young people
With an ageing driver workforce, it’s critical to engage young people to build a pipeline of future logistics talent. A career in driving has much to offer, from the opportunity to travel the country and have your own independence and flexibility, to job security and great earning potential. It’s important to highlight these benefits to make driving an attractive career choice for young people, and to renovate the perception of driving as the domain of middle-aged men. That, and supporting new drivers to meet the skills they need.
One of the ways that Manpower decided to tackle the driver shortage challenge head on was through the formation of the Driver Academy. Partnering with HGVT, the UK’s largest HGV training provider, Manpower launched the Driver Academy in 2019, with the mission to change the perception of the logistics sector and to attract, train and deploy skilled drivers to help the industry thrive. The Academy takes nominated individuals through an enhanced training programme to acquire both the necessary licences and certifications to safely launch a driving career, but also the work-ready soft skills and understanding of the industry needed to make them employable.
3. Engage drivers who’ve left the profession
Brexit had a significant impact on the driving sector, triggering a seismic shift in the market’s access to international labour. Over 12,500 drivers left the UK to return home, but recent data from the Driver Require Agency confirms that many UK drivers have left the profession too.
In November 2021, Manpower together with Logistics UK and HGVC created the Driver Academy Group, a consortium of road transport specialists dedicated to addressing the current skills shortage within the HGV driver and training sectors. The group was awarded funding from the Department of Education’s ‘HGV Bootcamp Skills Fund’, and one of the courses it offers, the Refresher Training, is aimed at experienced HGV drivers who wants to upskill, increase their earning potential and rebuild their confidence to get back behind the wheel.
Bridging the gap in the driving industry is not an easy task. Employers are facing a battle to retain existing talent and engage previously untapped demographics, but by engaging young people we can build a pipeline of talent to replace retiring workers, and by bringing women on board we can engage drivers from a previously largely invisible market. Meanwhile, providing upskilling opportunities for previous drivers can be a solution to the issue of driver retention.
At Manpower, we have nearly 40 years’ experience in recruiting drivers of all categories for jobs with the best-known names in the industry. Each year we place 18,000+ drivers into both temporary and permanent jobs. If you’re looking for driving staff for your business, get in touch with our consultants today.