Last week, I was invited to attend the Road Transport Expo, and hear the latest Asset Alliance Industry Monitor briefing. Recruitment and Retention remains one of the biggest challenges keeping truck operators awake at night.


Of course, this is no surprise. We speak with logistics employers every week and repeatedly hear this challenge echoed to us.

For instance, a recent conversation with an employer revealed difficulty in getting candidates to attend on-site interviews for entry-level positions, leaving them to resort to online interviews instead. When combined with figures showing annual labour turnover rates are consistently between 30% and 40% and Kahoot research indicating entry-level turnover churn in warehousing currently reaching 49%, the gravity of the situation becomes even clearer. This level of turnover is clearly unsustainable, with the average cost in recruitment fees, lost sales, and productivity exceeding £30,000 per person.

But the logistics sector is one known for solutions. Now, our reputation for pragmatism and efficiency must be turned to solving the recruitment crisis.

We must move beyond reactive approaches to change the narrative for our future frontline talent requirements. We can no longer rely solely on monetary incentives, assuming that these roles are easily replaceable and prone to high churn. Instead, we need a long-term, proactive strategy to attract and retain entry-level and first-line management colleagues. This involves investing both time and money to build a three- to five-year road map that secures and retains new talent in the business.

There are significant untapped talent pools across the country that remain under-utilised, such as Armed Forces and Prison Service leavers, and these groups would welcome the opportunity to explore careers in the logistics sector.

But, for now, let’s shift our focus to those beginning their career path. Last year alone, there were 1.8 million students in approximately 220 further education (FE) colleges. If we could engage even a fraction of these prospective professionals with a real opportunity to grow into a career in logistics, imagine the potential for our industry.

At Skills for Logistics, we’ve gone beyond just imagining that possibility. We’ve made it our mission to unlock this potential by actively engaging with FE colleges across England and Wales. Through bespoke programmes tailored to each institution, we bridge the gap between students and the logistics sector, igniting early interest and fostering a deep understanding of career prospects. We are doing this by collaborating closely with colleges to integrate logistics into their strategic development plans, ensuring students receive education and exposure that aligns with the industry’s evolving needs.

But cultivating a robust workforce isn’t solely about sparking initial interest—it demands ongoing commitment from employers. With this in mind, our engagement with colleges is driven by individualised road maps crafted in collaboration with employers to forecast workforce demands 12 to 24 months ahead. This proactive approach creates a seamless alignment between future employer needs and student skills and learning. Through this reciprocal model, we not only nurture talent through educational channels but also ensure that the skills acquired are finely tuned to meet the specific demands of prospective employers.

Once students express interest, we provide comprehensive support, including introductory courses, work placements, and mentorship programmes alongside their studies. This immersive experience equips them with a nuanced understanding of the logistics landscape and empowers them to hit the ground running upon entering the workforce. By nurturing their interest, they understand what they’re getting into, and most importantly, they are excited and dedicated to the career ahead of them. This heightened enthusiasm significantly increases the likelihood of them entering and staying within the industry long-term.

Reflecting on this, despite the sobering revelations from the Road Transport Expo, I maintain hope for resolving the recruitment and retention crisis plaguing our sector. While the solution may not be quick, we can cultivate a thriving workforce by working together to forge strong connections between education and employment. I speak from experience, having witnessed the impact of this approach firsthand through our work at Skills for Logistics.

This demands time, effort, and sustained collaboration for the long haul, surpassing short-term fixes aimed at plugging immediate gaps.

Furthermore, development cannot stop at attracting talent. To keep them there, efforts must also extend to supplementing regular continuing professional pevelopment (CPD) interventions. This ensures that every individual has the opportunity to upskill and develop for future roles.

By investing in frontline skills and fostering long-term career growth, we not only address retention rates but also fortify the foundation of the logistics industry for generations to come. With this approach, I’m confident we can navigate the challenges ahead and steer the logistics industry toward a brighter, more stable future.

David Coombes, MD, Skills for Logistics