One of the hot topics discussed by North, Midlands, Southern and Scottish TRA members at the recent regional on-line meeting was the delays created by the shortage of lorry drivers in the UK.
The recent queues at petrol stations have highlighted that the UK needs 100,000 lorry drivers to solve the shortage caused by a combination of Brexit, the pandemic and a backlog in HGV driving tests. With some haulage businesses offering drivers bonuses and 25% wage increases as golden handcuffs to keep them loyal, the problem looks likely to continue well into next year.
Karl Foster, managing director at Wolf Systems in Coventry said they haven’t seen any real impact in the business caused by the HGV driver shortage despite the newspaper headlines. He commented: “We continue to receive all of the raw materials we need to produce nail plates and easi-joist webs in our factories and these goods are still being dispatched as normal to our customers.
“It’s really just over the last few weeks we’ve seen things become more challenging with the short notice closures of some transport hubs as they struggle to deal with a backlog of deliveries onto their end destination.
“We’re working hard with our haulage partners across the UK and Ireland to minimise any impact for our customers. But it’s possible, there may be some disruption, particularly with express or lastminute orders.
“I can’t see many of our customers panic buying nail plates, but I do think many of them are planning further ahead and ordering in advance of when they would do normally. In the current climate this seems to be a sensible option.”
Johnny Fellingham, director at Scotland-based manufacturer Structural Timber Frame reported problems with planning. He said: “Scheduling has become more and more difficult with customers delaying deliveries due to lack of labour on sites and shortages of materials. Concrete has been on allocation and extended lead times meaning contractors are unable to get the foundations in as previously planned. The knock-on effect means delays to programming along the supply chain.
“Timber supplies have been consistent over the last 12 months however the price has been volatile and factory labour availability has been the over-arching problem. Finding quality people for semi-skilled work in our factory is still a big challenge. We have an ongoing need for a number of staff and it’s proving very difficult to find the right people.”
TRA chief executive Nick Boulton feels the industry should look towards improving conditions for drivers, he said: “Lorry drivers are critical to our businesses and improving the facilities available to HGV drivers will help encourage more people to consider lorry driving as a career. The government’s recent announcement allowing work permits for foreign drivers until Christmas is only a short-term solution and we need a plan for the long-term availability of drivers to support a smooth supply chain.”