Driver shortages create barrier

Covid-19 and plummeting oil prices are two of the most substantial challenges that the fuel oil distribution sector has faced in the past 12 months. But whilst these were very much in the spotlight, existing challenges continued to present barriers – one of the biggest being driver shortages across the UK and Ireland.

During recent conversations, several distributors have told Fuel Oil News that a shortage in drivers is one of the biggest challenges facing their businesses currently. With an increased workload for many distributors in an unseasonably cold spring, some distributors have had to rely on drivers hired from agencies, although this can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help.
Carrie Marsh, managing director, Marsh Fuels told us: “We don’t use agency drivers any more after our own experience was that while the ones that came to us had the right ‘piece of paper’ to do the job, they had never put delivery by oil tanker into practise, let alone safely negotiate tight driveways at customer properties. We paid out more in repair bills…”
It is not just distributors that are struggling to fill the skills gap, however. A latest report from Logistics UK highlighted that almost one in ten logistics businesses (9.8%) say the recruitment of drivers is an ‘extreme barrier’ to the recovery of their business. Logistics UK is urging the government to take immediate action to unlock access to these careers for new recruits to the sector, in order to support the recovery of UK PLC.
The pandemic has not helped matters, as Alex Veitch, general manager for public policy at Logistics UK outlines: “Our report shows that 29% of logistics businesses anticipate that they will be unable to fill vacancies for HGV drivers this year; a further 14.5% expect long delays before filling a role. With the logistics industry in urgent need of these workers, Logistics UK is urging the government to provide interest free loans or grants to train or reskill potential employees and help recruit them into the logistics industry. The business group is also urging the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to maintain its fast-track programme to catch-up on at least 30,000 driving tests that were postponed due to Covid-19 between March and December 2020; this has left thousands of potential HGV drivers waiting in the wings when the UK needs them most to support every facet of UK PLC.”
Are you struggling with driver shortages? Do you think support from government will help to close this gap? Let us know