Operators are struggling to find reliable agency drivers as they gear up for the peak Christmas period, with warnings that the shortage will intensify, forcing prices higher.

Leicester-based Premier Logistics told Motortransport.co.uk its main agency has been struggling to provide staff. “Because of Driver CPC, there is a clause in the contract that allows them to not hit the agreed service levels; this has forced us to look elsewhere in the market,” said commercial manager Mark Steel.

However, Steel said having to use agencies that are already loyal to competitors has meant Premier has been offered ridiculous rates – as much as £14.50/hr for work previously charged at £12.50.

Steel added: “On the rare occasion that we have to agree to the rates, for example if we are in a contract with a penalty on it, the drivers don’t even show up. In the past two weeks, we had more no-shows from agency drivers than we have had in the past year.”

Northampton-based Action Express MD Elaine Harries has also been hit with a series of driver no-shows. She is also concerned with the rising levels of damage caused by temporary staff, which she said is because agencies are forced to continue employing mediocre drivers due to the shortage of candidates. “About 40% of my accidents last year were caused by agency drivers,” Harries said. “Insurance premiums have risen £30,000.”

Simon Edwards, ManpowerGroup sector director, logistics, said: “Recruiting drivers has become harder with fewer responses to campaigns regardless of the approach taken. We’ve seen a particular shortage of drivers over the summer, as an average of 7,000 to 10,000 drivers per day have been off the road while they complete the Driver CPC. This is set to continue in the run up to Christmas, when the shortage is likely to become more acute.”

He added that the shortage is starting to have an effect on pay demands. “Companies that lock drivers in earlier are likely to avoid high premium payments and secure the best talent, whereas those using agency drivers purely on an ad hoc basis and without any level of forecast will undoubtedly feel the biggest effect from the shortage in availability,” he warned.