Road freight prices across Europe rose to their highest level in over a decade in the last quarter of 2017, according to the Transport Market Monitor from Capgemini. With continuing economic growth, that in itself is hardly surprising – more worrying however, is that road freight capacity was over 23% lower than in the same quarter of 2016.
This applies across most of Europe and North American, but the UK is one of the countries most afflicted. A Freight Transport Association (FTA) report claims that the country is short of 52,000 goods drivers. Of the 290,000 drivers we have, over 40,000 are foreign nationals and there are real fears that many of these are ‘going home’, not just because of Brexit uncertainties, but because booming domestic markets and unfavourable exchange rates make working in the UK less attractive.
The job isn’t what it used to be
The appeal of being a ‘knight of the road’ is diminishing. There is more pressure on time but more congestion to fight through; more systems to master; more compliance and more paperwork. Not to mention that the perception of risks (from hijacks to migrant stowaways), have also increased…
Driver CPCs and tougher medical requirements are encouraging older drivers to retire while the traditional pool of military-trained drivers have dried up due to armed forces shrinking. The average HGV driver is now 53 and only 2% are under 25.
Driving our future
Remedies, at least in the short term, are scarce. Even though government apprenticeship policies are already being supported, the number of Class C or C+E licence are down a quarter on a decade ago. Partly due to the fact that companies are reluctant to invest in training, in the fear that their staff will be poached.
Even if platooning technology or fully autonomous vehicles become commonplace they may still require human accompaniment. To the extent that this is de-skilling, it could also make recruitment and retention even harder.
If we can’t increase the human asset base and, (because of necessary regulation), we are not allowed to sweat it harder… The industry will have to be smarter in the way is manages its people.
Taking steps to correct this
The obvious target is the outrageous mileage runs of part-loaded or often completely empty vehicles. FTA figures show that over 25% of journeys are running empty. Even ‘loaded’ vehicles only average 54% space utilisation, and these numbers haven’t improved in a decade!
In other words, even with driver shortages, the required capacity does exist in the industry… if only it was fully utilised.
Accurately and optimally bringing together loads and empty space through an intelligent freight matching system such as that from TGMatrix would go a long way towards generating the additional freight capacity that is a prerequisite for continuing UK and European economic growth.
Get this right and a more profitable freight industry could make driving a more attractive proposition. But, if we neglect the opportunities, economic recovery could be stifled…
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