The last couple of years have been challenging for businesses that depend on professional HGV drivers for their service delivery. The jobs market has experienced pressure from a number of directions, resulting in a severe and long-lasting shortfall in the availability of qualified drivers across multiple sectors.

This issue has hit haulage and courier businesses significantly, but also a host of companies across other sectors. This includes Lanes Group, which relies on driver/operators to man its fleet of drain jetting vehicles and deliver essential drainage engineering services. At every level of the supply chain, driver shortages hamper the provision of essential products and utilities, harming the UK’s economy.

Although there are signs that the shortage may be starting to ease, demand for professional drivers continues to outstrip the limited supply. This means it remains vital for companies to take all of the necessary steps to attract new workers to join their teams, nurture their existing talent and ensure they are able overcome the current staff shortages.

Is the HGV driver shortage easing?

The recent driver shortage has been in the brewing for several years. Even before 2020, industry body Logistics UK raised concerns that the UK’s professional driver workforce was significantly smaller than the ideal level, but the events of the last two years have conspired to turn this problem into a major industry-wide crisis.

Contributing factors include:

  • EU drivers returning to their home countries after Brexit without being replaced, and companies being unable to bring new foreign professionals in due to the new administrative barriers created after Brexit
  • The COVID-19 pandemic making it harder for drivers to train and qualify, while also increasing the number of sickness-related absences among existing staff
  • Older staff members retiring or changing careers without being replaced by younger new recruits, reflecting the ageing demographics of the workforce

As a result of this, Logistics UK announced last October that 96% of UK logistics businesses were reporting problems recruiting HGV drivers. Their research showed that more than 13% of businesses reported severe or very severe problems recruiting warehouse staff, rising to 24.5% among those looking for van drivers – whereas zero respondents had reported any such problems in either of these areas in September 2020.

However, the industry body’s latest figures have indicated that these problems may now be easing slightly, with a net increase of 17,000 van drivers joining the sector in Q4 2021. Meanwhile, the number of HGV drivers in the workforce continues to fall, but is now stabilising – demonstrating that progress is being made, but there is still much room for improvement.

How can businesses ensure access to HGV driver talent?

In order to ensure they are giving themselves the best possible chance of attracting professional driving talent at a time when these skills are still in short supply, employers should be looking to do everything they can to create an appealing offering for candidates.

Here are some of the most effective ways of doing so, based on steps Lanes Group has taken over the last two years:

Provide a strong salary package and additional benefits

A competitive salary is the simplest and most effective way of attracting interest from candidates, but there are many other ways that companies can deliver additional financial rewards, even if they are unable to adjust their core salary structure. For example, this can include creative bonus schemes based on long service or career achievements, or financial support for vocational training.

Lanes Group recently introduced a £1,000 joining bonus for new recruits to its depot network team, and also offers to pay for candidates who do not currently have a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) to secure this qualification prior to joining, which has the added benefit of lowering the barrier to entry for less experienced candidates.

Streamline the recruitment process

Because candidates have so many options to choose from, companies are under pressure to accelerate their recruitment and onboarding processes as much as possible, or else they risk applicants losing patience and walking away from an offer.

This means that companies should do all they can to ensure their application system is clear and transparent, and that they are proactive in communicating with candidates throughout the process. The top applicants will not wait for weeks for a delayed response, and will want to feel valued before they choose to prioritise your company.

Do more to attract female applicants

According to Logistics UK, only 1.2% of all UK professional drivers are female, underlining the fact that women are severely underrepresented in this sector. Female professionals can therefore be seen as an untapped source of talent, and companies that proactively advertise to this group can mark themselves out from the pack.

Lanes strives to use more inclusive language and imagery around job listings, while emphasising benefits such as flexible shift options, healthcare schemes and a supportive working culture. The company also offers roles that are local and do not require long-distance travel or overnight stays – all of which are seen as important priorities for many female jobseekers.

Highlight flexibility and job satisfaction

Worker expectations have changed a lot in the wake of the pandemic, meaning professional drivers are now looking for more than just a good paycheque – they are also looking for roles in which they can feel fulfilled, and have enough control over their working schedules to ensure a good work-life balance.

At Lanes, our job listings for driver roles emphasise these qualities, pointing to the wide array of flexible shift patterns available, as well as the strong sense of community and job satisfaction among driving staff. This helps to increase the appeal of the roles, and addresses the fact that many drivers value a robust team dynamic.

Focus on the unique selling points of your roles

Many professional driving roles offer very similar responsibilities, making it hard to make a job listing stand out in a crowded labour market. As such, if your company offers specific unique benefits, or the role includes unusual responsibilities, these should be a key focus.

For example, Lanes Group emphasises that its driving roles offer diverse responsibilities, including involvement in the day-to-day provision of drain maintenance services, operating heavy equipment and providing customer service in a direct way. This helps the company to distinguish its roles from others, and advertise the business as a viable option for those looking for a change.

By taking steps such as these, businesses will be able to advertise their driving roles in the best possible light, and give themselves the highest chance of attracting the very best candidates. This will mean they can fill essential vacancies and make sure that their essential service requirements are met, weathering the challenges of the current marketplace until the HGV staff shortage can truly be brought to an end.

By Debi Bell, Head of HR Services at Lanes Group

Feature Photo by Screeny42 from Pexels

By Alison