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All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry into the Logistics Skills Shortage

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Talent Shortage-1Last week I represented the Courier industry at the ‘APPG for Road Freight and Logistics, Skills Shortage Inquiry’ hosted by Sir Mike Penning MP. Yawn I hear you say – but it really isn’t! There is a mounting crisis in logistics in terms of driver recruitment, with a 60,000 shortfall, operating in a sector that doesn’t always attract the best talent. Logistics is the lifeblood of UK industry and it is a growing crisis meeting the ever increasing demand, particularly with the growing need to scale to support online fulfilment.

Representations were made by Rod McKenzie, of the Road Haulage Association, Mike Ponsonby, Managing Director of M.A. Ponsonby, Nick Bithell, Leads Trailblazer Apprenticeship Schemes for Logistics and myself, on behalf of both diamondlogistics and the Institute of Couriers.

As expected, there’re was a huge focus on driver shortage. However, I think the remit to make logistics an attractive sector to work in has to be extended to the other functions within the industry, which at diamondlogistics we are particularly engaged in. We focus on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion being one of many methodologies ensuring we get the future workforce we need.

It is very evident that the Brexit debacle has hit the industry badly with everyone impacted by an exodus of European workers. The sector perception means that the younger generation don’t consider this as an aspirational career. The facilities and conditions, for drivers particularly, mean that the job is becoming less worthwhile and more stressful and unrewarding. Whilst salary structure north of Watford are of a substantial proportion to the cost of living, in the South a driver salary is increasingly difficult to survive on. And with perception of logistics cost being a necessary evil operating margins are often driven down to as low as 1% or 2%. Sadly, this means the ability to invest in the facilities and salaries needed to recruit the next generation of the logistics team are simply not there.

diamond’s manifesto on this includes;

  • Creating inclusive career paths, of which driving can be a life time choice, for those who see a long term journey through the exciting world of logistics (and it is exciting I promise!)
  • An industry led promotion of an EDI policy which encourages recruitment from all areas of society.
  • Improvement of conditions to include flexible working, support in mental and physical health to put the ambassadors of our companies (which is what our mighty drivers are) at the forefront of our client experience, not an afterthought.

The RHA has a manifesto also, broadly summed up in addressing driver conditions, which is good food, better rest stops, security, healthcare and adequate facilities – as well as an extension of the Apprenticeship Scheme.

Mike Ponsonby, an owner as well as CPC trainer, asked for a very simple, but incredibly effective, three point solution: 1) better toilet facilities, 2) better parking and 3) the ban of periods of availability. Nick Bithnell, of Knights of Old, asked for the Apprenticeship Scheme to be extended to included C+E qualifications to encourage take up.

All in all, the Courier and Fulfilment industry seems to be marginally more diverse with its technology, career possibilities and focus on legitimising career paths through developing team members up to degree based qualifications. Much thanks must go to the IoC, who work with this in the Strategic Initiatives in Transport, via the Department of Transport, and their full embracing of the Apprenticeship Scheme.

To me it seems Brexit continues to take Westminster’s eye off the ball with which will become a major headache to the entire economy unless this is addressed promptly. To deliver, we simply need a fully subscribed and vibrant logistics industry. The industry needs an image makeover, and driving is just one element of what can be a full and exciting career. Therefore we need to reframe the driver from being the ‘White Van Man’ or the evil ‘HGV driver at logger heads with the cycle lobby’. The UK needs us to deliver, and to do this we need great people. Quite simply, we have to put their needs at the heart of our solutions.

For more information check out @roadfreightappg.

My thanks go to Secretariat, Millie Hinton and Sir Mike Penning MP, The Department of Transport and Employment were also there but were unable to comment. It would have been good to see the other MP’s that were due to attend…but I guess the hunt for the new leader was somewhat of a distraction!