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Tackling driver shortages is nothing new, but since the recession, haulage firms and pallet networks are growing once more.

Now, it’s more important than ever to ensure steady recruitment to keep the supply chain moving.

Here, Pall-Ex looks at this problem in greater detail, assessing this industry-wide challenge, and exploring how firms can make logistics careers appeal to more people.

Our industry relies on efficiency, talent, and loyalty. Recruitment and retention should be a focus for any senior manager or director in logistics.

This year, the issue of driver shortages hasn’t been a surprise. In fact, it’s a challenge that all haulage firms have had to face over the past decade. With expansion plans in the pipeline and new partnerships across Europe, Pall-Ex is in a great position to promote itself as an employer of choice, but this boom of business has only made driver shortages become more apparent to the sector as a whole.

There is a heightened awareness that the industry is struggling to attract young talent, with the average age of drivers today being in their mid-fifties. There appears to be a lack of interest in committing to a full-time role at the age of 18 that doesn’t offer additional benefits. Hauliers and networks need to pull their heads out of the sand and dramatically improve their employee offering. Experienced drivers within your fleet and delivering your goods is worth more to the sector than some of us realise.

Companies can invest in suitable candidates with training and support but it’s the added extras that keep people within a business. Yes, employees need the basics but the industry needs to think about further benefits to attract long-term members of staff. The truth is, this has always been the case – and luckily we have never been better equipped to push logistics as a desirable sector to work in.

It takes a while to find a great recruit, but the main risk is when a fully-fledged qualified driver decides to leave the sector for a more desirable industry.

It’s primarily down to a skills shortage, which then impacts on costs. It takes a while to find a great recruit, but the main risk is when a fully-fledged qualified driver decides to leave the sector for a more desirable industry. As a sector we need to work together to ensure all aspects of the supply chain remain operational and its future remains secure.

The market has definitely shifted. Today a HGV Class 1 Driver can choose to work weekends or evening shifts at a premium salary. Or, they can choose 60-70 hour weeks on regular pay. The small quantity of qualified drivers out there know their worth and are reaching for better opportunities. 

Retailers in particular are going down this more flexible route. They might offer shorter shifts, but that means they can recruit further people in more accommodating roles. Salaries in the industry have been suppressed over the years, and though in days gone by they might have heard of jobs through word of mouth the recruitment process is a lot different now.

Apprenticeships are a great way to get young people involved – particularly those who have little or no prior knowledge of the sector. We are already in discussions to partner with Leicester College later this year. We plan to introduce students to Pall-Ex and educate them on the various roles throughout our network. The combined training and supportive initiatives will hopefully encourage a younger generation to learn the trade and stay with us for years to come.

Offering transfer initiatives for those working in the warehouses to driver training schemes, dubbed by some as ‘warehouse to wheels’, could also work. Although you’re then luring staff from one role within your organisation to another.

Making the sector more attractive to talented individuals from a different sector is one option. Many aspects can make a difference, from investing in equipment to the transparency and honesty of the organisation. The ability to work in a first-class company which is entirely orientated around solid customer care is a pull, as is the stability that a career in logistics can offer. The industry needs to shout about these benefits and stand out.

Most recently, we followed the success of a former solider from Hampshire who has been honoured at this year’s National Courier Awards after being nominated by Pall-Ex.

Mark Cunningham works as a driver for Pall-Ex member Provincial Logistics in Aldershot. He received this year’s Military Civilian Award and his career in logistics is going from strength to strength.

According to the Career Transition Partnership, headed up by the Ministry of Defence, over 20,000 experienced individuals leave the Armed Forces each year looking for work, many with transferable skills for the logistics sector.

The pond of ex-military personnel is one we fish in regularly. Like Mark Cunningham, we find their skills are closely aligned with what we need in logistics. The hard work required, the structure, and the commitment to delivering a quality service. Similarly, people from backgrounds in manufacturing and retail often understand the supply chain just as well as we do – an excellent starting point for a successful career in logistics.

In 2016 and beyond, I fully expect to see salaries continue to increase in order to attract talent. As the jobs market is more consumer-focussed now, firms in logistics are required to compete, offering more than just a secure role and adequate training. We need to recognise that it’s a buyers’ market and we need to find other routes to locate the most suitable recruits for the jobs.