HGV driver shortage: don’t compromise on safety

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The shortage of HGV drivers has become a huge problem for fleet managers, affecting supply chains, retailers and ultimately the consumer.

Exacerbated by the pandemic and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the recruitment crisis shows no sign of slowing. A bottleneck in the HGV driver testing system means there are not enough newly qualified drivers, while experienced professionals – including many EU nationals – are no longer working in the UK. Add to this an aging workforce and little incentive for young drivers or females to join the industry and the perfect storm has been created.

It’s estimated that the shortage of drivers will reach up to 100,000, with warnings that supplies could be severely affected throughout autumn and in the run-up to Christmas. Most recently, this shortage of drivers was partially responsible for the lack of fuel reaching filling stations, causing petrol stations across the UK to run dry and resulting in long queues at the pumps.

In July 2021 the UK Government announced temporary measures to address the issue, including an increase in the amount of legal driving hours per day from nine to ten.

The move was welcomed by wholesale distributors, but condemned by others in the haulage industry, including the Road Haulage Association (RHA).

“This is madness when the logistics industry has collectively and specifically advised against it,” said RHA CEO Richard Burnett. “Loading more hours on to drivers that are already exhausted is not the answer — his will only push more to leave. It also risks road safety.”

Safety is paramount for the industry and keeping on top of the relevant legislation is key for fleet operators, especially in the current climate where regulations are shifting to address the ongoing crisis. Rules for driver hours are complex and vary from country to country and region to region.

If a haulage company decides to take advantage of the extra one h our daily driving allowance, they should notify the Department for Transport. Meticulous records must be kept to ensure hours are not extended further.

Emily Hardy, Marketing Manager at Bridgestone Electronics, experts in safety devices for commercial vehicles, said: “During such difficult times for the industry, technology can come to the rescueand help fleet managers keep on top of the ever increasing workload. For example, Brigade has developed a remote fleet management system that has the ability to meet many of the challenges facing today’s haulage professionals. Fitting safety devices and vehicle CCTV to a fleet will also aid operators with attracting new recruits by providing additional peace of mind for drivers and allowing them to operate their vehicle with more confidence.”

Vehicle CCTV, Brigade’s mobile digital recording systems (MDR), allows fleet managers to live track vehicles, and provides numerous additional benefits for operators when linked to its 4G cloud service, BRIDGE. This includes location tracking so that managers can find their fleet anytime and anywhere, geo-fencing capabilities so managers can identify when vehicles are entering or leaving specific areas, and trigger warnings that instantly notify fleet managers of incidents. Drivers can also send an instant notification in the event of an emergency. Vehicle CCTV can also provide drivers and operators with an additional layer of safety and security by acting as a digital witness and providing irrefutable evidence in the event of an incident or false claims.

Sadly, there is no magic wand to solve the current recruitment issues, but by fine-tuning operations, haulage companies will be better placed to sustain productivity over the difficult months ahead while protecting the safety of drivers and other road users.