Father_Christmas and Volvo

The pressure on Father Christmas has never been greater after a poll of recruiters found that the majority think deliveries might not make it in time for the big day this year.

The survey of agencies supplying HGV drivers to supermarkets, retailers and distribution firms also found 70% thought the driver shortage has worsened since last Christmas.

And eight out of 10 think the situation will deteriorate further if access to EU workers is restricted.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) poll revealed more than half (54%) of 75 recruiters were now questioning if deliveries would arrive in time for Christmas morning.

Almost all of the companies surveyed (98%) said they were experiencing a shortage of drivers.

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: “Our members are very concerned about ongoing problems in finding candidates for driver roles. Especially at this time of the year with Christmas shopping going on, not having enough drivers to deliver goods can have dire consequences.

“We know that there are a number of reasons why the sector has problems finding new talent. These range from expensive training to high insurance rates for young drivers and bad infrastructure. The industry needs to tackle these issues and at the same time ensure that the working environment attracts a more diverse workforce.

“If the government fails in securing EU workers’ rights post-Brexit the current predicament could turn into a catastrophe.”

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Gethin Roberts, MD at Drivers Direct, said it was “abundantly clear” that the industry needed new talent.

“Research shows that the average age of a HGV driver is 53, with only 2% of HGV drivers aged under 25.

“To encourage people to join the industry we need to secure more funding for vocational training, better driver facilities and a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of working in this rewarding sector,” he said.

A recent review of the transport sector by Close Brothers Asset Finance found that 80% of SMEs thought apprenticeships were either all or part of the solution to the skills gap.

“Many businesses are very concerned about where their next cohort of skilled workers is going to come from and the answer, they feel, is more apprenticeships,” said John Fawcett, CEO of Close Brothers’ transport division.

“Clearly, not every business has a need for an apprentice; however, the fact that for many it’s simply too expensive shows that more needs to be done.”