We’ve been talking about this issue for over two years as blogs on our website will attest, but what’s the reality of the situation?
Market intelligence is a key part of our business and we’ve been seeing a slow squeeze on European trailer capacity of the like we haven’t seen for many years. The reasons behind it are multiple and seemingly there’s no short-term solution.
The lack of trailers that everyone is talking about is not down to a lack of hardware. The problem is a lack of drivers to drive the trucks.
But, it’s not a time to panic. There are solutions and we’re talking with customers daily about their unique requirements to ensure their supply chain is kept running. By understanding the macro market situation and understanding how we can work within this, it’s often one simple tweak that’s required to keep consignments moving. In our view, open talking and communicating can resolve most challenges.
So, what is causing the shortage of drivers? Well to the younger generation, driving a truck isn’t viewed as a viable career option (more on this later). For the older generation, retirement from red tape and increasingly congested roads can’t come soon enough. That leaves a fixed pool of drivers currently available for an ever rapidly expanding European economy.
Dealing with this fixed value of drivers, predominantly from lower wage countries, who have long since controlled the market, we can whittle this down further. These drivers were originally employed due to the attractiveness of the lower wages. At the time many haulage business owners would pocket huge profits whilst their drivers, desperate for a better standard of living, were forced to traverse Europe holed up in their cabs for weeks on end, earning less than minimum wage.
Now we have a situation where a driver who had once left his family for months simply to provide for them, can now gain employment in his own country for better pay and gets to spend quality time with his family. Hard to argue that’s not a better way of life.
Currently those drivers still available can dictate who they want to work for and where they want to go. Employers are battling for drivers and many of those that sign up, don’t want to come to the UK, preferring to work on longer trips within Europe instead.
From speaking with continental drivers recently they admit that the uncertainty of Brexit, not Brexit itself, is deterring them from taking on routes to the UK. Some of the concerns seem far-fetched, but with nothing still on the Brexit table, we’re unable to provide any guarantees and avoiding the UK continues.
Haulage has created an identity problem. Treating drivers as low skilled, low waged disposable items does not help the industry. Driver take-up is at an all-time low – so we need to take action and reinvent the role.
If I was young (which I’m certainly not) my social media feed will already have told me about Elon Musk’s automated truck ambitions. Google it and you’ll find a plethora of companies such as UPS with similar ambitions, so why would you set your sights on a career that looks like its days are numbered?
There’s no doubt autonomous trucks are coming, sooner rather than we’d all possibly imagine, but probably only for the long-distance part of a journey. But between now and then we all have some soul searching to do along with some thinking outside the box.
So, what can be done right now? Thankfully Jordon works in a way, well suited to this current landscape. Asset light and fast to act with effective execution we’re able to minimise cost whilst keeping our performance levels high. And our ISO 9001:2015 accreditation is a huge enabler in ensuring consistent quality of service.
Of course, it’s a tricky balancing act, especially in this climate, but we’re confident our market intelligence is second-to-none and our robust carrier relationships are strong. This ensures our customers always get the best value when it comes to price, service and availability.