Aging Driver Demographic; What’s the Cure?

general 24 May 2018

The aging driver demographic isn’t something we’re getting away from, and with a maturing population in general, it’s become particularly competitive to attract and crucially retain drivers of the next generation…

Now something of a joke in the industry, young drivers are pulling in for work in cars that rival the MD’s, but it’s a reality we must face when the talent pool is rapidly maturing. Wage hikes have become almost demanded of the next generation, and with the average starting salary for HGV drivers creeping towards the 30k mark, it’s no surprise to see millennials arriving in the latest sportscar with disposable income to spare.

Unless radical solutions are sought, the transport sector is over the barrel to sustain aggressive salary inflation. The problem could have such an impact on wider industry, even the government have voiced concerns, and proposed acceleration in the HGV licencing process to address the driver deficit, although the RHA is pressurising further, with demands for training grants of circa £3,000 to be awarded to prospective drivers.

Dave Cork, Transport Operations Manager, adds ‘Driver shortfall has become such an issue, that we’ve been forced as an industry to not only review salaries, but to also look at sustainable solutions to attract and retain drivers. One of the tactics AKW has employed is to offer a salary sacrifice driver training scheme, to allow unqualified drivers to obtain their HGV licence in a more accessible way whilst working. We also incentivise candidates to stay by refunding the full cost of the training back to them on the condition they remain with us for 18 months post qualification’.

Another potential solution is negating the need to recruit excess drivers by optimising fleet efficiency and thus reducing labour demand. Better route and logistics planning could cut the workforce headcount, as could demand planning, gauging the need for agency workers during peak periods, but it won’t obliterate the issue entirely.

We also face an image crisis relative to the profession; once romanticised with themes of camaraderie, pin-ups and adventure, people have wised up to the reality that the job can be lonesome, unsociable and frustrating. Re-marketing of the career is essential; this is an absolutely vital role in not only the transport industry but the wider economy, and should be shouted about as such. Vehicle design is becoming sleeker, sexier and more technologically advanced, so promoting the USP’s of your fleet in a clever way could draw attraction. Providing standard perks for drivers in general, making their areas of respite more comfortable and welcoming, and making them feel a valued part of the team would also be beneficial. Marketing prior to an established career choice being made is also fundamental; promoting at school career fairs or working with agencies such as ‘Think Logistics’ to encourage logistics career pathways provides a vital window of influence to shape the future demographic.

Innovators are reacting by ramping up the technological capabilities of vehicles, with semi-autonomous solutions emerging, and experts predicting fully autonomous vehicles to become prevalent within the next decade, with estimations of its primary impact being upon long-haul trucking. Judging by evolving technology and surrounding hypothesis, automation has potential as a solution in the long game, but does not address the immediate scarcity we face.

Julian Richards, Managing Director, reflects ‘although the driver shortage is undoubtedly an issue, AKW are doing better than many, with our average driver age at 49 compared to and industry average of 56, and vacancies running at around 10%, which again is better than general. I’m confident that with strategies we are set to deploy, we’re set for a sustainable driver infrastructure, allowing us to maintain our near perfect KPI’s’.

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