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Logistics UK calls out misleading information published in TSC report
Logistics UK has said that the recent publication of a report into the Road Freight Supply Chain by the Transport Select Committee (TSC) has published misleading information about the issues faced by the sector, and the causes for some of the problems which operators have faced over the past two years, and before.
“While the report does comment on some of the important issues preventing the recruitment of HGV drivers over the past decade, it fails to land on the most vital aspect of why these issues have not been resolved,” said Michelle Gardner, Head of Public Policy, Logistics UK.
In blaming the sector for all the issues which have caused breaks in the supply chain for essential goods and fuel supplies, among others, Gardner argues that the Committee has severely devalued the efforts of all logistics workers who have carried the stress and uncertainty over recent years to keep the UK economy thriving. She said it also fails to shed light on the role of government and other organisations in supporting adequate workforce recruitment and the causes of staff retention problems across the sector.
SHORTAGE OF DRIVERS NOT A NEW ISSUE
The shortage of HGV drivers is not a new issue for the industry. However, as a result of recent challenges including Brexit and COVID-19, the chronic shortage of skilled drivers reached an acute phase in 2020 and 2021, resulting in a noticeable strain on the industry’s ability to deliver for its customers.
“Contrary to the report’s findings, this is not down to logistics being a “macho culture which explicitly excludes women from the opportunities” but rather a result of many factors,” Gardner said. “These include the fact that drivers are often unable to access suitable safe and secure truck stops and parking facilities across the country while undertaking their daily tasks and legally mandated overnight rest periods.”
DRIVERS’ FACILITIES ARE NOT THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY OF INDUSTRY
There is also lack of safe and suitable hygiene facilities specifically dedicated for females. Logistics UK has been campaigning for these basic human rights for many years to avoid HGV drivers having to take their legally mandated rest breaks in unsuitable locations such as lay-bys and on the side of roads. However, Gardner says that progress on this issue has been painfully slow.
Logistics UK argues that it is not the industry’s sole responsibility to build and run these facilities – as suggested within the TSC’s report – not least because they are commercial enterprises, many of which cater for all road users and not just the haulage sector. The real problem that has not been resolved is local authority planning rules and red tape that prevent, or delay, these facilities being built. To suggest that these new builds could be constructed as a result of a levy on hauliers would place an unfair, disproportionate burden on the industry, which already operates on incredibly narrow margins of around 1%.
APPRENTICESHIP LEVY REPRESENTS POOR VALUE FOR MONEY
In terms of skills challenges highlighted in the report, the logistics industry has already invested more than £700 million into the next generation of workers through the Apprenticeship Levy, yet has only drawn down £150 million for its own workforce training.
“This money is a missed opportunity for recruitment and staff development,” Gardner said. “Logistics UK believes the funds from the Apprenticeship Levy could be used for qualifications other than apprenticeships, which have proved not to be the ideal method of training for the sector.”
CALL FOR EXPANSION OF NATIONAL SKILLS FUND
Logistics UK is calling on the Department for Education to expand the terms of its National Skills Fund (NSF) – an initiative to help adults train into new careers – to include level 2 qualifications, so more people can access training to become HGV drivers, forklift drivers, warehouse operatives, mechanics or other vital roles which the logistics industry needs to fill desperately.
“It is vital that logistics workers continue to be recognised for the outstanding role they play in protecting the supply chain and delivering for the nation,” Gardner said. “All drivers should have access to safe, clean facilities they require as part of their job and suitable skills training. While the full report highlights some important issues and has some helpful observations, it is disheartening to see that the Committee has failed to appreciate and highlight the challenges faced by the sector. Logistics UK will be engaging with the Department for Transport as it considers its formal response to the report in the coming months.”
Published On: 23/06/2022 16:00:59