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Logistics UK Transport Manager Survey captures the challenges facing operators

Following a pause in publication in 2020 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, Logistics UK’s Transport Manager Survey has returned for 2021.

Based on the responses of around 400 transport managers who are members of Logistics UK, the survey and report highlight a wide range of issues that affect the road haulage industry, from driver recruitment and pay to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and Low Emission Zone regulation.

Conducted in June and July 2021, the survey offers a comprehensive overview of transport managers’ assessment of the role they play in UK logistics and the state of the industry. Almost four out of five respondents (79%) were operator licence-nominated transport managers and a further one in eight respondents fulfilled the day-to-day role of transport manager.


The ageing transport manager workforce and problems recruiting younger staff and mechanics are compounding the well-publicised skills shortage among HGV drivers. Four out of five transport manager respondents were over the age of 45; the same as 2019, while the number of transport managers under the age of 35 fell from 7.1% in 2019 to 5.6% in 2021.

The proportion of respondents who were planning to leave the industry in the next five years increased slightly to 37.6% from 36.4% in 2019. The number of 65 to 74-year-olds planning to leave the industry in the next five years rose to 83.3% from 69.2% in 2019 as fewer transport managers choose to work past retirement age.


The proportion of other age groups intending to leave the industry in the next five years remained largely unchanged. The exception are 25 to 34-year-old transport managers; the proportion of this age group planning on leaving the industry fell to 5.9% in 2021 compared with 16.7% in 2019 – a positive indication that younger people are being retained.


The average length of time transport managers reported being in their current role was 7.4 years, which is nearly a full year more than reported in 2019. However, the average length of time spent as a transport manager in their career was 10.5 years, falling from 11.2 years in 2019.


The proportion of transport managers earning less than £20,000 in total compensation rose from 2.2% to 3.8%. However, there were large decreases in mid-range pay bands and significant increases in higher pay, possibly due to the retention of older staff.

There was no change in the size of budgets for which transport managers were responsible in 2021, compared to two years earlier. The proportion responsible for budgets under £500,000 was 22.3%. At the same time, those responsible for budgets over £500,000 was 77.7%.


Asked to rate issues according to how challenging they perceived them to be, respondents reported that the driver shortage remains the top challenge in 2021 and has increased since 2019. Fuel price and duty has fallen slightly as fuel prices in 2020 were lower than 2019. Traffic congestion and journey time reliability moved from third place to fifth as coronavirus restrictions reduced the level of car traffic on the road network.


Staff recruitment has reached crisis level for transport managers, particularly for transport managers. Difficulties were also evident in the recruitment of van drivers and warehouse staff. Two-thirds of respondents reported that they were either unable to fill vacancies for HGV drivers or had experienced long delays in doing so.

The EU workforce in the UK reduced dramatically in Q2 and Q3 of 2020. In Q2 2020 the number of EU drivers fell by 36.6% from 39,000 to 25,000, compared with Q2 2019. In Q2 2021 there was no change in the number of EU drivers in employment. The percentage of those who reported no issues in recruiting HGV drivers was around the same as 2019, at 10.2%. The percentage of respondents reporting that they were either unable to fill mechanic vacancies or had experienced long delays fell slightly from 64.2% in 2019 to 61.3% in 2021.


The proportion of transport managers incentivising the recruitment and retention of HGV drivers through pay increases is up for newly employed drivers and agency drivers, as industry attempts to attract new and temporary drivers to plug the shortfall in driver numbers.


Most transport managers expect a shortage of qualified HGV drivers in the near future, although one in six did not forecast this to be the case compared to almost one in three (30%) in 2019. Driver retirement was cited again this year as the most significant contributing factor to shortages. Non-UK citizens leaving the country and a lack of apprentices were cited by twice as many transport managers in 2021 than in 2019, as issues contributing to the driver shortage. These findings are in line with the general ageing profile of drivers and the change in UK migration patterns due to Brexit. Of those who provided an ‘other’ reason, the dominant issue was the impact of IR35 tax reforms, where agency workers pay more tax and agencies pay National Insurance contributions. As in previous years, a few also mentioned ‘low pay and poor conditions’.

Sarah Watkins, General Manager – Policy Information, said: “After a break in 2020, this year’s Transport Manager Survey confirms the well-publicised HGV driver shortages in the industry and the effect this has had on pay, especially in order to attract new and temporary drivers. The survey also captures respondents’ views on driver wellbeing, urban logistics, brake testing, enforcement and compliance, forming a useful snapshot of the challenges currently facing transport managers.”


Published On: 16/09/2021 16:00:24


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