Supply Chain Enabled

Driver shortages – are we doing enough?

Published: July 15, 2021
Author: Lorcan Sheehan

The prospect of driver shortages in our supply chains been well flagged for some time.  In many labour markets around the world, the driver population is ageing, and the industry struggles to attract new entrants.  At the same time, our expectations of drivers to improve the customer experience, facilitate trade complexities, aid regulatory compliance and help address sustainability in our supply chains are increasing.

In recent weeks, industry groups in the UK flagged critical driver shortages to support supply chains, warning of empty supermarket shelves and the collapse of certain supply chains, if action was not taken to attract drivers from the EU to fill vacancies in the UK.

Industry groups in Ireland (FTAI and IRHA) warned of difficulties in recruiting drivers to meet growing supply chain needs.  eCommerce growth is one of the factors in the US, that is cited as driving demand for delivery drivers, which is taking capacity away from drivers on long haul and full truckload routes.

In Ireland, policy makers have been actively involved with industry to seek solutions to this shortage and they are currently developing a new 10-year strategy for the sector.  I have been fortunate to participate in a cross-industry logistics skills initiative, chaired by the Irish Department of Transport.

As we look across the various markets there are several approaches being adopted to address this resource shortage;

1. Development of career pathways within supply chain

2. Professionalisation of the driver role, with increased education pathways and recognition for that effort

3. Education and awareness of logistics and supply chain careers

4. Addressing driver pay and conditions, in particular for long haul drivers

5. Recognising that these are critical skills, and enabling work visas and reducing wait times for testing and certification

6. Campaigning to improve safety and facilities for drivers

As supply chain professionals we should ask ourselves if there is more that we can also do to support these critical resources.  Do we consider driver welfare standards when tendering our logistics business?  Are wait times for pick up and drop off that impact planned driver schedules being measured and addressed?  Do we consider the facilities for visiting drivers at our locations and the measures taken not just to protect our products but the safety and security of those charged with their safe delivery?  Are the mechanisms in place to reward exceptional service from drivers?

How do we provide career pathways for our drivers, in order to retain their knowledge within our supply chains?

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