More women encouraged to become truck drivers

adobestock_102879635In the run up to Christmas in 2015, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) warned that a shortfall of some 50,000 lorry drivers was putting Christmas deliveries at risk. One year on, and the industry is still suffering from the effects of a driver shortage. And to make matters worse, Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union could cut off a valuable source of labour for some road transit firms.

The vote to leave the EU could damage the road haulage industry on two fronts. If European trade contracts as a result of the referendum, then companies charged with transporting those goods will be affected. Meanwhile, restrictions on the freedom of movement principle for workers could see European drivers forced off haulage company books.

The need to recruit drivers, therefore has arguably become more urgent. A new recruitment push will target groups that aren’t currently represented in the driver population, and one of the key target groups is women.

Women currently make up an estimated one percent of the population of registered truck drivers. But at least one industry body believes that times could soon change and is preparing to welcome more female drivers into the profession.

The driver shortage problem

  • More than 60% of HGV drivers are 45 or over
  • About 1% of HGV drivers are under 25
  • About 1% of registered HGV drivers are women
  • About 3% of the road haulage workforce is from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background

Earlier this month the Freight Transport Authority (FTA), which represents the interests of logistics firms in the UK, warned that European workers make a vital contribution to the logistics sector, just as they do in the national health service and construction industry.

The FTA claims that 11 percent of people involved in the logisitics industry are EU nationals. And their chief executive David Wells highlighted the role that EU citizens, particularly Eastern Europeans in plugging labour gaps in the freight transport industry.

With the future of important trading relationships with European countries also thrown into doubt in the future, it is important the sector gets as much help as possible. Particularly filling gaps in the labour market.

Future bright for women lorry drivers

At the moment, only around 2,200 of the 315,000 registered truck drivers in the UK are female – around 1%. But the FTA believes that more women are considering taking up a career in the logistics sector.

One recent FTA poll that was carried out, somewhat unscientifically, on Twitter found that over 79% of responding ladies were willing to get behind the wheel of a 44-tonne truck as a career choice. The FTA took this as evidence of the desire being there for women to get involved in the industry.

Additionally, they also found that the proportion of younger women wanting to get into the profession was improving, with 15% of female drivers currently aged between 21 and 25.

There are, however, some barriers that arguably put some women off the industry.

One BBC report into why there aren’t more women lorry drivers raised the issue of a lack of on-the-road facilities for women. They reported that lots of roadside facilities, like showers and clean bathrooms, are not always accessible. But, one female driver said that they were getting a lot better.

In a separate BBC report, interviewees suggested that there was a perception problem with the industry. Suggesting that some women were put off by the job being over masculine and very physical.

This is a myth that James Hookham, the FTA’s Deputy Chief Executive was keen to dispel.

He said: “Modern cabs are like spaceships these days, with automatic gears and steering and lots of creature comforts.”

Other barriers to truckers

There are other barriers that affect everyone trying to get into to trucking and not just women. These are a huge part of the driver shortage problem.

The FTA believes that one of the biggest barriers to would-be truck drivers is the cost of gaining a licence and training. The £3,000 price tag can be immediately off-putting to anyone looking to get behind the wheel of a rig.

The unsociable hours, with shifts that can last anything from 11 to 14 hours can also put people off. Particularly anyone who has a stable family life.