The Freight Transport Association (FTA)’s latest Logistics Skills report has been released and it makes grim reading for operators in the UK haulage and courier industries.
The transport and storage industry is now grappling with a 43% increase in job vacancies in the sector. The report, co-sponsored by Manpower, makes it clear that the decline of EU net migration to the UK has been one of the contributing factors.
The FTA Logistics Skills Report 2019
The FTA report highlighted the increasing recruitment shortage faced by the sector and considered a number of factors. Sally Gilson, Head of Skills Campaigns at FTA, said: “The logistics sector is facing serious challenges in the recruitment and retention of labour: 59,000 HGV drivers alone are urgently needed to keep just to keep operations afloat.”
One of the contributing factors adding to the shortfall in recruitment highlighted by the report is the difficulties in attracting younger people to work in the industry. Only 19% of HGV drivers are under the age of 35. 60% of drivers are 44 years old or older. However, the report also highlighted the reliance that many operators have on EU workers to keep their operations, and the sector, running.
Gilson continued: “Businesses within the logistics sector are reliant on access to EU workers to help fill job vacancies; these workers currently constitute 13% of the entire logistics workforce.”
As a result of the findings, the FTA is lobbying the government to ask it to recognise how reliant the industry is on EU workers.
The great unknown
Like the rest of the UK and Europe, the logistics sector continues to be held back by the uncertainty of Brexit and the lack of clarity over the shape of any future arrangements between the UK and the EU.
However, the announcements that have been made by the new UK government paint a very difficult future arrangement that is likely to hit the logistics sector hard and exacerbate the skills shortage.
The number of EU nationals moving to the UK to work is already 50 percent lower than its 2015/ 2016 peak. The combination of a “hostile environment” and the introduction of new limits on immigration and working rights based on a salary threshold set at £30,000 is likely to push that figure lower still.
Gilson made the point that need should drive policy rather than an arbitrary threshold. She commented: “With the Government now investigating an Australian Points Based System, the focus for future immigration is still focused on higher skilled workers. FTA is urging government to build its future immigration policy on what the UK economy needs to remain functional – not arbitrary academic levels and minimum salary requirements.”
Brexit and the logistics sector
The logistics sector already finds itself on the sharp end of the Brexit negotiations. Responding to change as a result of new regulations, increased paperwork and regulatory compliance issues, altered or increased border checks, the uncertainty over the continuance of cross-border licence and qualification recognition are just some of the issues the sector faces as a result of Brexit.
These issues – and the potential for increased complexity in cross-border trade – means an effective logistics sector is set to become ever-more vital to the success of the UK. The reduced access to necessary skills is just another headache the industry doesn’t need.
As Gilmore states: “The logistics sector is the lifeblood of the nation’s economy, contributing £124 billion gross value added (GVA); without adequate levels of staff, operations will come crashing to a halt and businesses will cease trading.”