Retailers have been issued with a shock warning that the industry is short almost 50,000 truck drivers in the run-up to Christmas.
The Road Haulage Association issued the warning about the “chronic lack” of drivers, just as customers have begun complaining that certain retailers could not handle the volume of Black Friday orders.
Retail analysts at LCP Consulting recently warned that 17m Christmas parcels will arrive late this year, blaming the preponderance of next-day-delivery orders that retailers such as Argos have been offering in recent weeks.
According to the RHA, however, a large part of the problem is not the capabilities or short sightedness of retailers, but the government issued cost of a truck licence.
“The situation is getting worse,” warned RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett. “Thousands of older drivers are leaving the industry and younger people can’t afford the £3,000 it costs to get a truck licence. The government could help, but won’t. It should support a truck driving apprenticeship, but is refusing to do so, even though it is forcing the larger trucking firms to pay the new apprenticeship levy. What young person can find £3,000 without some help? This shortage is grave and presents a real threat to Christmas and to economic growth.”
Independent grocery outlet chain Nisa has been altering its training methods to reflect this shortage, supplying the necessary “internal investment” to create a “calibre of drivers who love working for Nisa/DHL, and know the business in great detail.”
“Although the industry is struggling in this area, we have been planning around this with the warehouse-to-wheels process for over a year,” said Nisa Head of Logistics Lee Vickers.
“Christmas planning is all about preparation and we’ve covered the shifts we need well in advance.”
Let us hope that other retailers have done the same.