Trucks on the road back on the up but a tenth of drivers furloughed

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To measure the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the transport and distribution industry, MT has put together a panel of operators across the UK to give regular feedback on their volume of work and vehicles laid up. We will check in regularly with the panel as the lockdown eases to assess how the industry is fighting back as the UK economy recovers from the expected recession.

The 11 operators surveyed on May 19 (excluding DPD which did not supply vehicle numbers) together operated 3,338 trucks on March 23, 2,623 on May 4 (a fall of 21%) and 2,669 on May 18 (a rise of 2% on May 4).

Together they employed 4,832 drivers on March 23, of which 4% were furloughed, 4,234 drivers on May 4 of which 8% were furloughed and 4,289 on May 23 of which 10% were on furlough.

Cullimore Group
Moreton Cullimore
MD

Coverage: UK, but predominantly the Midlands and South West.

Main business sectors: Transport and general haulage, aggregate supply and ready mixed concrete.

Between May 4 and May 18 volumes for us actually decreased again as demand settled or stagnated.

How many trucks were you operating on these dates?
March 23: 60 May 4: 6 May 18: 8

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?
                                                                                 March 23    May 4      May 18
Full time employed drivers                                  50                50            50
Percentage shifts filled by agency                       0%               0%           0%
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough    0%              95%          90%

Before Covid-19, the RHA and FTA estimated that the UK had a shortage of around 50,000 HGV drivers. Looking ahead to this time next year when the UK has left the EU and the pandemic should have eased significantly do you expect the shortage will have got bigger or smaller?

Smaller. I think there will be fewer companies doing more of the work which will manage the shortage differently.

Owens Group
Doug Jeffery
Group general manager

Coverage: UK mainland.

Main business sectors: FMCG, steel, retail, express and home delivery, construction and automotive.

From an initial reduction of around 20% in April compared with March volumes, in May they have increased by around 5% as a result of some customers commencing production and distribution.

How many trucks were you operating on these dates?
March 23: 350 May 4: 280 May 18: 300

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?

                                                                                March 23     May 4      May 18
Full time employed drivers                                656               651           656
Percentage shifts filled by agency                   7.6%               5%           2.6%
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough 12%              11%          10%

Do you expect the driver shortage will have got bigger or smaller by this time next year?

Bigger.

Clipper Logistics
Mick Doe
Transport operations director

Coverage: UK from 13 transport operations with a higher presence in the ‘golden triangle’ and South East of England.

Main business sectors: Retail fashion and high value goods including pre-retail, e-commerce, storage, store replenishment transport solutions and returns management; technical services for brown goods.

In the retail fashion sector between May 4 and May 18 we saw a significant uplift in online shopping with some brands selling at levels higher than at Christmas. For some of the customers we operate transport solutions for, we have started to collect product from the stores and return it to the DCs to feed an ever growing online volume.

Of our 450 trucks, on May 18 we were still operating around 350, servicing existing customers and delivering PPE to the NHS trusts from our Daventry warehouses. This is an operation we have been successfully running for two months now.

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?
                                                                                 March 23      May 4     May 18
Full time employed drivers                                 450               450         450
Percentage shifts filled by agency                      25%              25%         25%
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough  20%             20%         20%

This is due to geographical location and the social distancing guidelines restricting the ability to double-man vehicles on night-time deliveries

This time next year do you expect the driver shortage will have got bigger or smaller?

Smaller. As pointed out by the Chancellor on May 19, the country is facing a recession and demand in the retail fashion industry will reduce as people have less spare money to spend. This will mean there is less volume, requiring fewer drivers and nobody really knows how the public are going to react when we exit the lockdown. Will people return to the high street or will people continue to shop online? We should remember whole new generations are learning to shop online as they self-isolate, and I believe that the high street brands will need to collaborate much more to reduce their costs to be on the high street and to reduce their final mile cost of getting to the high street.

Roger Warnes Transport
Ian Barclay
Operations director

Coverage: UK mainland.

Main business sectors: Bulk agricultural and construction sectors.

Between May 4 and May 18 volumes increased by 7.3%.

How many trucks were you operating on these dates?
March 23: 87 May 4: 73 May 18 60

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?
                                                                                 March 23    May 4      May 18
Full time employed drivers                                   114             114           114
Percentage shifts filled by agency       Our policy is not to use agency drivers
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough     15%           15%         17.5%

This time next year do you expect the driver shortage will have got bigger or smaller?

Smaller. It’s too early to make a call on the economic impact of the pandemic, suffice to say it will be negative. There’s a real danger of a resurgence as we get back to “normal” and with the onset of winter. Unemployment will grow and companies will review their modus operandi, looking for efficiencies which they haven’t previously enjoyed. Staff will be more productive, simply because they know that it’s critical to play their part and they genuinely want to do that. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen an increase in young people who are keen on a career as a driver, modern trucks and the good earnings potential are the main drivers of that. Consistent with that, over the past three years our average driver age profile has reduced from 56 to 41.

Green Tiger (NI)
Justin Eynon
UK director of operations

Coverage: UK national, but mainly M62 corridor, as far south as Stoke, Derby and up to Kendal.

Main business sector: Car transporter only.

By May 18 all deliveries stopped with the exception of essential vehicles, which has kept one transporter running.

How many trucks were you operating on these dates?

March 23: 18 May 4: 1 May 18: 1

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?
                                                                                    March 23    May 4    May 18
Full time employed drivers                                    10                10            10
Percentage shifts filled by agency                         0%              0%            0%
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough     90%           90%         90%

This time next year do you expect the driver shortage will have got bigger or smaller?

The same. Our industry is very specialised and it is very hard to recruit drivers especially as they are working outside loading in all conditions and the cabs are very small compared to general haulage. We may see the labour market improve slightly as I don’t see all of the car transporter companies surviving the immense cash pressures caused by this pandemic.

Caledonian Logistics
Derek Mitchell
MD

Coverage: Four DCs cover half of Scotland including islands. Distance division covers mainland UK.

Main business sectors: Pallet distribution, general goods, food products and storage services.

Volumes in early May were down about 35% and by May 18 were down around 25%.

How many trucks were you operating on these dates?

March 23: 60 HGVs; 14 3.5 tonne May 4: 54 HGVs; 12 3.5 tonne May 18: 54 HGVs; 12 3.5 tonne

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?

                                                                                    March 23     May 4    May 18
Full time employed drivers                                    84                 84           84
Percentage shifts filled by agency                                    None
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough      10%             20%        20%

This time next year do you expect the driver shortage will have got bigger or smaller?

Smaller. More and more companies are announcing redundancies due to Covid-19, causing more people to be on the jobs market. Although we have the oil industry here in Aberdeen, and sometimes struggle to get experienced men, on average we are OK. We are very similar in the Inverness area whereas our Glasgow depot sometimes does struggle to attract the right type of manpower.

Stagefreight
Ian Uttley
Director

Coverage: UK mainland.

Main business sectors: Live events, theatre and music tours, conferences and exhibitions, and general haulage.

Our events volumes remained at zero on May 23. We don’t expect a return to even the smallest of volumes till at least September.

How many trucks were you operating on these dates?

March 23: 33 May 4: 25 May 18: 13

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?
                                                                                      March 23    May 4    May 18
Full time employed drivers                                       24                 24          24
Percentage shifts filled by agency                     No agency drivers used
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough        40%            45%         55%

This time next year do you expect the driver shortage will have got bigger or smaller?

The same. We have no problem attracting drivers into our industry.

DPD
Tim Jones
Director

Coverage: UK national

Main business sector: Express parcels

Between May 4 and May 18 our volumes doubled.

How many truck drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?

                                                                                 March 23     May 4    May 18
Full time employed drivers                                 800               830        850+
Percentage shifts filled by agency          Agency can be up to 30% of drivers
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough       No staff furloughed

AE Gough & Sons
Michael Gough
Partner

Coverage: UK national.

Main business sectors: Aggregate and agriculture

Between May 4 and May 18 the aggregate sector picked up slightly but the agricultural sector remained stagnant.

How many trucks were you operating on these dates?

March 23: 37 May 4: 22 May 18: 32

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?

                                                                                  March 23    May 4    May 18
Full time employed drivers                                   32                32            32
Percentage shifts filled by agency                     No agency drivers used
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough    0%              16%          0%

Looking ahead to this time next year do you expect the driver shortage will have got bigger or smaller?

Smaller. There will be fewer hauliers and those still operating will have reduced their fleets as customers struggle in the new environment. It will be several years before volumes return in many of the industries sectors.

Freightlink Europe Freight Train/Freight People
Lesley O’Brien
Partner

Coverage: UK national.

Main business sectors: General haulage transport operator predominantly serving the import and export community.

How many trucks were you operating on these dates?

March 23: 24 May 4: 14 May 18: 14

On 23 March Freightlink Europe was working to capacity with a fleet of 24 vehicles (14 rigids and 10 artics). On 4 May we had five vehicles standing and had not renewed the contract hire of five more vehicles, which terminated at the end of March. By 18 May the number of vehicles operated had not changed, although volumes had improved and turnover per day had increased by 47% from May 4.

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?

                                                                                  March 23     May 4    May 18
Full time employed drivers                                    22                22          22
Number of agency drivers used                             2                   0            0
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough      0%             27%        18%

On May 4, six drivers were on furlough, plus two drivers had received correspondence stating that they were clinically vulnerable and could not drive for 12 weeks. On May 18 two drivers had been brought back from furlough. We were using no agency drivers but were however using two members of office staff where required.

Looking ahead to this time next year do you expect the driver shortage will have got bigger or smaller?

Much bigger. I expect that the driver shortage will have worsened. We already have an ageing workforce and I suspect that many of these older drivers, already approaching retirement age, will have a change of mindset and simply decide that the they do not want to return to a driving career. I am currently hearing from drivers who are fearful of returning. Those who’s DQC expired during the lockdown period may also decide that they are not going to renew their card. The whole population is reviewing their lifestyles, quality of life and what is important and drivers are no different. We are already seeing drivers new to the industry who want to enjoy work-life balance and will not suffer being away from home for long periods, with poor rest facilities – unlike the drivers who are now retiring. Irrespective of a probable downturn in the economy, I believe that these reasons, together with a declining availability of EU drivers, will make the driver shortage much bigger.

Turners Group
Paul Day
MD

Coverage: UK national.
Main business sectors: Temperature controlled, containers, tankers and general haulage for transport and temperature controlled warehousing and packing services.

Between May 4 and May 18, there was no change in temperature controlled, containers were down a further 5%, in tankers, road fuels were up 17%, aviation was unchanged with no work, cement was up 24%, flour was up 5% and milk was unchanged, and general haulage was up 7%.

How many trucks were you operating on these dates?

March 23: 2,193 May 4: 1,798 May 18: 1,825

How many HGV drivers did you employ, what percentage of shifts were filled by agency drivers and what percentage of your employed drivers were on furlough on these dates?

                                                                                  March 23     May 4    May 18
Full time employed drivers                                   2,590          1,967      1,997
Percentage shifts filled by agency                         8%               3%          5%
Percentage of employed drivers on furlough     0%             0.3%       0.8%

Looking ahead to this time next year do you expect the driver shortage will have got bigger or smaller?

Much smaller. I am concerned that the pandemic will inflict serious damage to the economy which will result in significantly less transport activity. As a result there will be fewer drivers required by the industry, and thus there will be no shortage until the economy can recover. I believe it will take several years before we get back to 2019 demand.

The post Trucks on the road back on the up but a tenth of drivers furloughed appeared first on Motor Transport.

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