A survey for Transport Focus, a watchdog for transport passengers and road users, recently discovered that 95% of consumers are satisfied by motorway services. While this is great news for private drivers, investment in services for commercial drivers has not kept pace and the survey also demonstrated that satisfaction levels in these areas are falling.
This news does not come as a surprise to FTA, the largest membership body in the logistics sector, representing more than 17,000 firms nationwide. Having pressed the government on the need for better facilities for drivers for some months now, the report’s findings simply bear out what we have known for some time – that logistics drivers are not given the priority they need when it comes to the provision of basic hygiene and rest facilities to use when doing their daily work. And with the logistics sector representing 11% of the UK non-financial business economy, and £121 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy, it is time for the individuals powering this vital sector of the economy to be treated with the respect they deserve.
Just because their daily place of work is not a permanent office or factory, FTA believes that commercial drivers should still have regular access to basic services – clean toilets, healthy food options, a safe and secure place to stop and sleep if necessary, somewhere to socialise and exercise and free Wi-Fi – yet these rights are often out of reach for some of the most hard-working individuals in the UK. In particular, the survey found commercial drivers were concerned about a lack of overnight security provision and poor value for money in overnight parking fees. As a mentally and physically demanding occupation, drivers are required under law to take regular rests, but a lack of suitable parking amenities, combined with a lack of service areas, is making this a challenge.
With the current shortage of commercial vehicle drivers – more than 45,00 vacancies currently exist across the industry – the logistics sector needs to prove it is as appealing to potential employees as traditional deskbound jobs or those on the factory floor. In order to do this, it is vital that the essential support services which consumers take for granted at motorway service areas are improved for commercial users to make logistics a more attractive career.
With the average age of a British lorry driver now 55 years old, attracting a younger audience to the industry is key if the country’s goods and services are to keep moving effectively. To do this, it is of paramount importance that working conditions are as high as those offered based in permanent buildings, and the industry needs to show there are career opportunities and long-term prospects in logistics. Millennials and subsequent generations have high expectations which need to be met to fill the employment gap. This skills shortage will be further amplified by Britain’s departure from the EU – British hauliers currently employ around 60,000 foreign drivers, whose future working status is currently undecided – so drastic action is required to rectify unacceptable working conditions.
The logistics industry keeps the UK economy moving, but it will struggle to continue to do so if its workforce is exhausted, frustrated and suffering from low morale. The Department for Transport has recognised that facilities must improve and pledged to take nationwide action, but is yet to deliver on its commitment to such an important sector of industry. While planning consents have been granted to increase available parking in some areas, spaces in other regions – particularly the Midlands, East of England and South East – are at a critically low level. FTA’s view is that it is imperative that local and national government and service area providers work together to ensure drivers have easy access to service areas with appropriate parking spaces and suitable facilities. These include space to park and manoeuvre HGVs of all sizes; clean toilets and washing facilities; catering with value for money and healthy options menus; fuel availability; security for vehicle and load with lighting and camera monitoring; and reasonable and consistent parking fees for longer stays. Of course, this sort of provision works both ways – drivers must treat service sites with care and respect if they are to expect high quality facilities every time they stop for a break.
FTA continues to campaign for more consistent standards across the UK. In conjunction with its members, it created a Drivers’ Facilities Charter, which asks national and local government to consider the provision of suitable facilities for drivers in the planning of infrastructure on the road and at development sites, while ensuring that there is a provision of basic facilities within distribution parks and centres for visiting drivers. FTA is also committed to tackling the wider challenge of skills shortages. Campaigns include a call to Government to adapt the Apprenticeship Levy into a training levy to enable more forms of vocational training, and to trust businesses’ judgement with their skills needs and ability to design training that is fit for purpose.
Skilled commercial vehicle drivers are in high demand, but supply is dwindling. The UK’s motorway service network must improve to help the logistics sector retain and attract talent, and to ensure Britain can trading during a challenging political climate.
Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK PLC. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.
Malcolm Bingham, Head of Road Network Policy, FTA