Pall-Ex Group

Almost three quarters of Pall-Ex Group hauliers are affected by the driver shortage every day with all 170-plus members reporting the situation is causing their businesses to suffer, the pallet network is warning.

The extent of the impact of the driver shortage crisis was revealed in a poll of the group’s shareholder members, who belong to either Pall-Ex or sister pallet network Fortec.

Pall-Ex said that as the current driver cohort ages and fewer young people enter the sector its members are struggling to find drivers to carry out collections and deliveries in a time when demand for such services has increased significantly.

When surveyed, 74% of Pall-Ex Group members said that they were affected by driver shortages every single day, and 100% said that the situation was causing their business to suffer.

Craig Stevens, MD of Pall-Ex member STD Developments in Congleton, Cheshire, said: “We are finding it hard to continue to deliver the quality service we have built our reputation on. It is something that our customers and fellow network members now expect from us.

“If things carry on the way they are going, profits will start to drop and we will be forced to increase our prices, as will all other transport businesses. This will have a massive impact on the price of goods purchased in the UK.”

He called for greater incentives to draw young people into the sector. “Providing support with the cost of training and forcing insurance companies to cover new drivers would be a step in the right direction to solving the problem,” he added.

Fortec Shareholder member Brocklehurst Transport has also been hit by the driver shortage. MD Dave Webster said: “If nothing changes, we will have to park our trucks up. We will not be able to operate as a business.

“To improve the situation, I’d like to see a relaxation of the CPC regulations allowing drivers, whose certification has lapsed, to come back into the business and have 12 months grace to complete refresher training.”

He also called for changes to insurance cover. “The government needs to encourage insurance companies to lower the minimum age from 25 to 21, as this means so many more talented young drivers can enter the industry. This would be a massive help.”

Kevin Buchanan, Pall-Ex group chief executive, added: “As an industry, we are facing one of the greatest challenges of a generation.

“The combination of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded the driver shortage that has been an ever-increasing threat for several years.

“Drivers having to isolate and those who have chosen to leave the industry because of covid, as well as a vastly reduced talent pool thanks to most European drivers no longer having freedom of movement into the UK has seen the number of skilled drivers fall off a cliff in the last 18 months.”

Stressing the importance of action, Buchanan added: “The government must act immediately to protect the supply chain that has kept Britain moving for the last 18 months.

“The government has always been slow to recognise the transport sector as a key industry in this country. But now, more than ever, it is vital that it does not neglect the heroes who were hailed as key workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, who transported everything from life-saving medical supplies to toilet roll. That simply cannot be allowed to happen.”