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Molly Watson, project manager at Osborne Motor Transport with the company's MD Richard Preston

The UK's youngest female transport manager CPC holder has slammed the logistics sector for not doing enough to attract new recruits.

Twenty-year-old Molly Watson, project manager with Pallet-Track member Osborne Motor Transport in South Shields, said efforts to plug the skills gap, including attracting truck drivers, faces an uphill battle unless the industry addresses fundamental infrastructure issues such as reversing the lack of investment in truck stops and secure parking.

She said the sector’s unattractive reputation for long hours and poor staff services meant vancancies are unlikely to be filled, adding that many women who pass their tests don’t progress to jobs behind the wheel because of poor investment in hygiene factors at truck stops and service areas - an issue that also impacts management and operational roles.

“The whole industry needs to step up,” Watson claimed. “Too many truck stops have closed down and not been replaced and the sector desperately needs to improve its reputation and facilities to attract both men and women.

“I don’t think I would want to be a driver in the current climate as there are too many facilities to improve, such as showers.”

Watson, who is currently guiding her company to its FORS Bronze accreditation added: “This is a terrible shame as there are many great opportunities, but there is a lot of work to be done to make it safe, particularly around the issues such as the lack of showers and unsecured parking at night.”

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Osborne MD Richard Preston said: “Molly is clearly a very driven individual who is keen to grow with the business and she has certainly opened my eyes in terms of these issues, which those already in the industry have probably put up with over many years. Having the discipline to self-learn the transport manager course material and progress through and pass the exam is some feat!

“We’ve taken Molly on in a trainee management role and have given her the responsibility of delivering the ‘key projects’ element of our three-year business plan to modernise Osborne Motor Transport.”

Watson's comments come as recruitment giant Monster released a study highlighting the logistics sector’s gender imbalance, where women currently account for only 13 per cent of the 850,000 UK workers in warehouse, logistics and delivery.

The online platform has launched a campaign to attract more women and challenge traditional perceptions.

It reports that women have a higher pass rate for the HGV licence test but account for fewer than 9& of people who take the test. Of the estimated 300,000 HGV drivers in the UK, fewer than 2% are women.

Derek Jenkins, general manager for Monster in UK and Ireland, said: “A career in the industry is one with a range of development possibilities for both men and women. Workers can spend time listening to podcasts and audio courses. They can also upskill to bigger trucks, specialist trucks or additional forklift skills. HGV driving is a smart career choice.

“We are in desperate need of pioneering women who can change the perception of the industry. This is a clear opportunity for a sector that, even with extended furlough and lockdown measures, is still struggling to fill open vacancies.”