Online shoppers will have to wait longer for their orders to arrive as a shortage of lorry drivers nears crisis levels, according to Britain’s largest logistics company.
Wincanton, which has about 5,500 drivers of large goods vehicle (LGVs), is calling for combined action from industry and the Government to tackle the issue before it causes serious problems to the wider economy and starts to hit consumers in the pocket.
Freight Transport Association figures show Britain needs another 60,000 LGV drivers in addition to the 326,000 qualified in the UK, but only 20,000 are entering the profession each year.
It won’t be a case of turkeys not being on supermarket shelves for Christmas... but smaller deliveries, such as those that end up in consumers’ homes will become much more delayed
Julie Welch, Wincanton
Julie Welch, HR director of Wincanton, said that as well as taking longer to arrive, deliveries could rise in price as companies fight for qualified drivers, pushing up wages.
“It won’t be a case of turkeys not being on supermarket shelves for Christmas, because the large companies can put more resources into the problem,” she said.
The trucker is becoming an endangered species as lorry driver shortage hits the indust #UkNews http://t.co/uhZKtwYmZMpic.twitter.com/h1wpU0mP0U— newslocker_uknews (@newslock_uknews) September 27, 2015
“It will be smaller deliveries, such as those that end up in consumers’ homes, that will become much more delayed. Companies like Amazon could be affected. The big food retailers that do home deliveries could raise minimum spending levels to make them more cost-effective as they seek efficiencies,” she added.
Feeding the crisis is the age profile of existing drivers. More than half of them are aged over 50 and facing retirement, according to Road Haulage Association figures, and the industry is having trouble attracting younger entrants, with fewer than 5pc of those behind the wheel being under 25.
There are also concerns that red tape could be blocking people from entering a job which can pay £35,000 a year, with higher rates for specialised qualifications such as driving fuel or chemical tankers.
“Rightly so, but health and safety laws now stop young people from spending a day in a lorry’s cab and getting to see what the job is about,” said Ms Welch. “People don’t get to learn about a career that pays well and has chances to progress.”
The high cost of becoming qualified to drive a large commercial vehicle also proves a big barrier to entry, according to Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association.
“Getting a truck licence costs somewhere between £3,000 and £5,000 – a huge amount of money for people trying to enter the industry – and most haulage businesses are small family companies who run on very small margins, so they too struggle to fund the training.”
Wincanton is now joining with industry bodies to lobby the Government to increase funding to the industry to support apprenticeships and training programmes for LGV drivers.