Organisation representing hauliers says skill shortage could damage the industry and economy.

The logistics industry is set to face a shortage of truck drivers and mechanics in the “near future”, an industry body has warned.

In its 2019 Logistics Report, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) said more than half of vacancies for mechanics, technicians and fitters will not be filled in the coming years, while 15 percent of existing HGV driver vacancies will not be taken. The report, which was compiled after polling the opinions of more than 500 national and international haulage businesses, also suggested that more than a third of currently advertised HGV driving jobs would endure “a long delay” before the right candidate was found.

Semi truck driver talking on CB radio

According to the FTA, the shortages are the result of a nationwide skills shortage, which the organisations head of skills campaigns, Sally Gilson, described as a “blight” on the logistics industry. As a result, the FTA is calling on the government to do more, claiming unused Apprenticeship Levy funds should be set aside to increase the number of people training to work in the sector. The organisation has also suggested changing the government’s Future Immigration White Paper to allow foreign logistics staff to work in the UK regardless of how Brexit pans out.

Mechanic repairing broken semi truck engine

“The logistics sector is the lifeblood of the nation’s economy, employing more than 2.7 million people and contributing £124 billion gross value added,” said Gilson. “From HGV drivers to warehouse staff, the UK economy simply cannot operate without the logistics workforce – businesses would come grinding to a halt and Britain would cease trading.

“An aging workforce, competition for skilled staff, and shifting migration patterns – in part in response to Brexit – mean we are facing serious challenges in the recruitment and retention of labour for key logistics roles. After all, the average age of a HGV driver is 48 years, as found in the survey, and 13 per cent of HGV drivers working in the UK are EU nationals; their continued residency is not guaranteed post-Brexit.”

Mechanic repairing truck on jack stand

Meanwhile, Lawrie Alford, the FTA’s head of automotive, said a shortage of mechanics could cost hauliers in terms of vehicle downtime and damage a manufacturing sector dependent on just-in-time deliveries.

“Vehicle mechanics, technicians and fitters play a vital role in keeping the UK’s logistics sector running seamlessly, but the pool of these skilled engineers is declining rapidly,” he said. “Currently, six million vehicle inspections are undertaken per annum by 30,000 technicians working on HGVs, trailers and PSVs. But unless the skills shortage is tackled, workshops will struggle to keep up with demand and queues for vehicles inspections and repairs will grow longer and longer. Operators will be forced to place their vehicles in ‘downtime’ for increasing periods, which could cause their operations to come grinding to a halt; not ideal for the consumers and businesses who have come to expect superfast, “just-in-time” deliveries.”

“Not enough secondary school and college leavers are drawn to technician apprenticeships; we must work together to promote the benefits of this career and ensure the industry attracts a steady flow of new talent.”

Wheels in motion from an articulated lorry travelling on a UK motorway