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Lorry driver transports goods to a retail supermarket store

Skills shortages in haulage: can you attract new talent and retain staff?

German confectionery brand Haribo recently admitted that it was struggling1 to deliver to the UK because of a shortage of long-haul lorry drivers.

Haribo is certainly not alone - major retailers such as Tesco2 have also admitted they face a shortage of drivers. It seems the whole haulage industry is concerned about the issue.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has warned3 that some wholesalers have had to limit deliveries or even turn down business. Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have warned that things will get worse, with more food shortages caused by a loss of up to 100,000 lorry drivers.4

What has caused this shortage?

Covid has had a significant impact as nations closed their borders, while Brexit has meant 80,000 EU Nationals have left the UK workforce in the last 12 months.5 This has impacted drivers and workers in UK fields and factories: so much so that industry chiefs have called upon the Government6 to allow European drivers back into the country on special visas to help combat the shortfall.

The issue is not isolated to food - the impact of the driver shortage means components, tools, and materials are not being delivered to manufacturers, while medicines may not be delivered as quickly either.

This presents an immediate recruitment issue as drivers retrain and seek work elsewhere - but there is also a long-term issue for the haulage industry; 81.1% of transport managers are over 45, with a third over 55.7

It has been predicted that 54% of logistics companies will see “severe” skills and worker shortages by 2024,8 particularly in back-office, warehousing, and driving roles.

All of this means that attracting new talent and retaining existing talent is hugely important to haulage companies.

Know your future workers

The priorities of younger workers are very different to older generations. Millennials have driven the experience economy,9 moving jobs and even careers way more than their predecessors, with an approach to work that is actively disengaged.10 This has seen businesses the world over change their approach and adapt, making work-life balance more of a priority, providing more engaging training programmes and introducing flexible working, which has increased five-fold in the last two decades.11

Generation Z has a focus on wellbeing and the environment - fearing climate change above all else.12 Skills development, mentoring, and a focus on mental health are all listed as priorities to ‘Gen Z’,13 along with ethical and open employers. Demonstrating a commitment to mental health, providing mentor schemes, proving your commitment to lowering your carbon output will all help in your search for younger employees.

Support your existing team

The very nature of the industry means that many employees already working in haulage are working in isolation. It’s therefore imperative to drive company culture and keep people connected - almost 30%14 of employees will leave an organisation because of a bad company culture. Maintain communication, demonstrate that you ready to listen to team concerns. Run reward schemes, and consider organising events so teams can meet away from the motorway. Provide training and growth opportunities within the business so that your staff can see a career ahead of them.

Invest in the right things

Up to date vehicles and equipment don’t just make your drivers feel safe; they will help them feel valued. Ensure your vehicles have ergonomic seats and the best navigation systems (which can help avoid incidents on unsafe roads), with shorter and more streamlined routes. Could you provide your team with music subscriptions? Or offer other benefits such as gym memberships, more holidays or family days off? It all shows your team that you are considering their free time as well as their working hours.

Manage your risks

Nobody wants to work for a company that doesn’t value their health and safety, so protecting your staff, your vehicles and managing risk is vital. There are often increased insurance premiums for drivers under 25, but this should not be seen as a block - speak to your broker, who can evaluate your complete risk profile and present it to the insurer in the best light. Ensure you are covered if people are having training or working in new locations.

Manage your brand

When advertising any vacancies, promote the advantages as much as possible. Redefine what it means to be an HGV driver – show that it can offer autonomy and freedoms other career paths cannot. Work with specialist haulage recruitment consultancies who are known and respected across the industry and can help you attract the best personnel. Communicate your investment in training and the safety and happiness of your team.

Whilst there are many factors beyond your control, your aim should be to attract and retain the best workforce for the long-term in order for your haulage business to thrive.



1. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jul/01/haribo-struggles-to-deliver-to-uk-shops-due-lorry-driver-shortage
2. https://news.sky.com/story/tesco-admits-exposure-to-hgv-driver-shortage-as-hauliers-warn-of-supply-crisis-12335508
3. https://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Article/2021/07/02/Haribo-supply-woes-latest-blow-in-lorry-driver-crisis
4. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jun/28/lorry-driver-shortage-uk-government-and-retailers-in-emergency-talks-covid-brexit
5. https://www.ft.com/content/de721f35-d228-48de-bd9f-d2168b16aba6
6. https://www.cityam.com/eu-nationals-leaving-the-uk-is-driving-worker-shortage-says-homeserve-ceo/
7. https://www.fenews.co.uk/press-releases/70027-how-the-logistics-sector-can-swerve-the-oncoming-crisis
8. https://ciltuk.org.uk/News/Latest-News/ArtMID/6887/ArticleID/22813/Logistics-sector-facing-severe-skills-shortage-in-next-five-years-CILT-finds
9. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2015/11/24/what-is-the-experience-economy-should-your-business-care/
10. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/231587/millennials-job-hopping-generation.aspx

11. https://www.thehrdirector.com/business-news/flexible-agile-working/flexible-working-increase-five-fold4072019/
12. https://www.forbes.com/sites/emanuelabarbiroglio/2019/12/09/generation-z-fears-climate-change-more-than-anything-else/#499f3eb6501b
13. https://hbr.org/2020/06/what-your-youngest-employees-need-most-right-now
14. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/336275/things-gen-millennials-expect-workplace.aspx