Mike Elton, Director at FarEye reports on how technology can help shippers and carriers overcome a shortage of truck drivers.
The economic situation in the U.K. is not looking favourable as inflation, surging energy costs and changes in government are pressuring businesses and consumers alike and causing uncertainty for the future. Adding further cause for concern is a shortage of truck drivers that are affecting supply chains and retail e-commerce operations. The gap between the amount of drivers needed and the amount currently working is estimated to be nearly 80,000.
A Logistics UK report states that the number of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) drivers fell by 30,300 in the first quarter of this year. The dwindling number of drivers is a major concern for shippers and carriers with the holiday season just around the corner. Experts say that there are several reasons behind the decline in drivers.
The Shortage’s Driving Factors
An Aging Workforce
They say age is just a number. Age is also a good indication of when it is time to retire. In the U.K., 45% of truck drivers will enter retirement in the next 5-10 years. The U.K.’s ageing truck driver workforce and lack of young drivers is contributing to the country’s driver shortage. Attracting younger drivers to the workforce will be critical to curbing the shortage.
A Demanding Lifestyle
Attracting young workers to the full-time driving profession is a challenge, as the lifestyle required by the job is demanding and falling out of fashion with current work-life balance standards. Long and demanding hours, extended time away from family, unhealthy diets, poor quality sleep and a limited number of clean facilities at depots have dissuaded many from joining the profession, regardless of age.
Wages for truck drivers in the U.K. have historically been below the national average. This has turned away many workers from becoming truck drivers. Fortunately, wages are improving. However, this is more of a supply and demand response and less of a proactive measure to boost standards of living. The average salary of a truck driver in the U.K. is now around £30,200 – just two percent higher than the national average wage.
Britain’s exit from the E.U. has contributed to the driver shortage in a few key ways. Foreign drivers that used to be able to work easily in Britain are no longer able to do so, and it is estimated that 20,000 drivers from the E.U. left Britain and never returned. Secondly, initial declines in the value of the pound relative to the euro at the start of Brexit made working in Britain less attractive for Europeans. Lastly, additional checks of freight moving into Britain from Europe have cost drivers time at the border, and as most drivers are paid by the kilometre rather than the hour, this has put downward pressure on wages and may be contributing to fewer drivers entering the workforce.
How to Overcome the Driver Shortage with Technology
Last-mile delivery technology today can overcome the challenges associated with a shortage of drivers in two major ways: reducing the demand for drivers through more efficient operations and creating an improved driver experience that attracts more workers to the profession.
Route optimisation software automates the routing and scheduling for truck drivers and dispatchers, reducing the number of miles driven, capacity needed and trucks required to complete last-mile deliveries. The more efficient operation requires fewer drivers to complete the same amount of deliveries, alleviating driver shortage pressures and allowing shippers and carriers to accomplish more with less. This route optimisation also allows drivers to make more money as many are paid by kilometres driven or deliveries made, thus attracting more people to work as delivery drivers.
Using technology with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) can help drivers avoid potential delays and provide day-to-day operational clarity, allowing for a better overall and more predictable driver experience. These platforms can also help manage driver fatigue by accounting for break time hours and fuel stops and helping companies comply with country-specific labour law restrictions.
One new technology application that is making its way to the driver’s seat and that inspires healthy competition is driver gamification. This technology turns a perhaps mundane job of making deliveries into an enjoyable contest, where drivers compete to make the most deliveries in a certain time, use the least amount of fuel and drive the fewest kilometres per delivery, among others. Gamifying delivery driving has proven benefits such as reduced time per delivery and increased driver satisfaction, which may make the delivery driving job a bit more enjoyable.
And finally, perhaps the most significant technology that will impact driver shortages is autonomous delivery vehicles, which are currently being tested in various regions. With this, drivers – and driver shortages – may just become a thing of the past.