Chelmsford-based transport company training own drivers to tackle shortfall

One of the UK’s biggest global logistics businesses in the UK – based in Chelmsford – has said it is growing its own driver training as the UK domestic haulage market pressures increase.

Woodland Group has said the well-publicised HGV driver shortage has meant the industry is struggling in the absence of European drivers due to COVID-19 and Brexit – as well as IR35 legislation reducing the availability of agency drivers.

There is a reduced number of vehicles from the continent performing cabotage, a shortage of new vehicles and parts and a bottleneck at HGV test centres causing significant delays in training new drivers.

Woodland Group, on its website, says: “At Woodland Group, we continue to grow our own driver training to DCPC standards, restructure driver opportunities and run national recruitment campaigns to deliver our clients’ supply chains safely and on time.”

The impact has been felt industry-wide and is far-reaching as the significantly reduced capacity affects final-mile delivery of products to the end consumer.

The lack of supply to meet demand has pushed up singular movement costs and driver salaries. And while the effects had initially been felt mainly across palletised freight in the haulage industry, the container haulage industry is now being hit as well.

As a result, cost increases between five to 10 per cent have already been implemented across the pallet, full trailer load and container haulage market with a potential cost increase of the final product to be expected.

And while the UK government has announced its intentions to temporarily extend drivers’ hours to counter the impact of the driver shortage, key concerns have been raised by hauliers in response.

It says adding longer hours to an already pressurised, highly time-sensitive environment where key workers such as drivers work shifts of significant length will likely cause accidents with far-reaching impact on communities.

And rather than improving driving conditions to attract and retain more into the industry and tackle diversity in recruitment, this would have the opposite effect.

The price increase vs respective capacity decrease up until May 2021 – providing comparable numbers to the same months in 2020  and the significant changes month-by-month -has grown exponentially since May.

Compared to the previous month, transport prices climbed by 8.4 per cent in May 2021. In relation to the same month of the previous year, the increase amounts to more than 28 per cent.

Capacity has dropped by more than 11 per cent since April 2021. It is 58 per cent down since May 2020.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter