At the start of Pride Month, I think it's reasonable to question the industry's openness to diversity and inclusion; and wonder if it's a missed opportunity?
So far, 2022 has seen the anticipated explosion of conferences, exhibitions and industry events as Covid slips reluctantly into our perceived pasts and people start muttering about “things returning to normal”.
I've noticed that there’s lots of new toys on the market, some pretty impressive technologies, colour, glamour, speeches, lobbying, back-slapping and backroom gossip, but there are also a few themes coming to the fore. Rising fuel costs, change in business models, and driver shortages all seem to be the big issues of the day.
TLDR: Not a lot we can do about fuel and changing markets, a lot can be done about driver retention
Fuel isn’t going to become cheaper, the market will continue to diversify as we move from the High Street to the internet, and the driver shortage isn’t going to miraculously disappear as the boot camp evangelists are promising.
The average age of a Class 1 driver creeps slowly higher towards retirement age. There are insufficient numbers of young people coming into the industry, and the best of efforts from the DVSA and “Boris and the Boot Camps” (hmm….good name for a 70s revival band) are unlikely to stem the flow, let alone add surplus capacity to an industry that is still some 70k to 100k drivers short.
A lot of emphasis is being placed on training. The cost of licence acquisition. A lot of energy being spent on highlighting facilities for drivers, or the lack thereof. Excellent points, commendable, certainly. But are they enough?
In my humble opinion, we also need to add driver retention to the list.
TLDR: Facts and figures
The latest figures from trade associations, or even the government’s own statistics still make for some unpleasant reading:
Most HGV drivers leave the workforce before reaching 45 years old.
By 2020, of those under 45 years old who held HGV licences, only 19% were professional drivers and only 32% retained their licences and qualifications.
A significant number of over-45s also leave the workforce some time before retirement.
It is estimated there are some 70,000+ qualified experienced drivers having left the sector with no intention of returning.
Anecdotal evidence shows that up to 50% of newly qualified HGV drivers leave the industry within 12 months despite having spent a lot of money to gain their qualifications.
Couple this with general demographics amongst the potential pool of employees
Nearly 98% of the current driver population identify as male.
It is estimated that 8% of the general population identify as being LGBTQI+.
64% of those have experienced anti-LGBT+ violence or abuse.
More than a third have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination.
Almost one in five LGBT staff (18%) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues because they’re LGBT.
In a recent report published by the UK Government Transport Committee on the first day of “Pride Month” this year, it says:
While the sector is perhaps more open to female drivers than in the past, it has largely failed to attract a younger and more diverse workforce.
It is disappointing how little progress has been made since our predecessor Committee raised the same concerns five years ago and this should be a source of shame for the sector. It must redouble its efforts to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
Now, there is no magic toolkit readily available to resolve the issues within any business.
But management need to find strategies to resolve the driver retention issues within their business and the sector as a whole, they need to address concerns for the minorities within their workforce, they need to be seen to taking a stand against “the banter” (read: abuse), and they need to be seen to be inclusive to prospective employees and contractors.
If not, and they have a revolving door at the entrance to the traffic office, then I suspect they will continue to struggle.