The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) claims that the much-touted shortage of LGV drivers will be brought to a head by the Driver CPC in 2013/14.
It said that category C and C+E LGV test passes have declined dramatically year-on-year across all age groups since 2005, save for a slight rise in 2011. New entrants to the driving workforce have dropped from a high of 48,227 in 2005 to just over 25,000 in 2012.
This near-50 per cent fall in new professionals has seen REC members reporting a shortage of drivers nearly every month for the past two years. The existing driving workforce is also noticeably ageing: 65 per cent of current C and C+E licence holders in the UK are over 40; 24 per cent are in their 30s; and just 11 per cent in their 20s. There are nearly as many over-60 year olds as there are under-30 year olds.
Many older drivers have said they will leave the industry rather than go through the Driver CPC.
Ben Farber, a policy advisor for REC, said: “In the past, recruiters have been able to plug the gap in the UK driving workforce by sourcing competent, compliant drivers from other EU nations due to the historically higher wages offered in the UK.
“However, wages have been stagnant for nearly five years, with average hourly rates hovering around £8.50, up only 20p from the 2006 average of £8.30 – a 2.4 per cent increase over a period where inflation has at times topped five per cent and rarely dipped under three per cent.
“Overtime rates have also declined, and whereas an agency driver in 2005/6 could expect a higher weekend rate and a premium once they topped 40 hours a week, increasing numbers of endusers are now offering a slightly higher basic salary with a seven-day flat rate and no overtime option at all.
“Then there is the issue of driver’s negligence insurance (DNI). This is a real issue for agencies as it increases costs and reduces margins. It also impacts on younger drivers who must hold their licence for two years and complete 180 driving hours to get DNI cover.
“This can be a major barrier for newer drivers when end users insist on DNI – many find themselves unable to work unless their agency is able to self-insure. “Any significant spike in demand over the next two years will expose the dramatic shortage of drivers in the UK,” Farber added.
“When that happens, the only way end-users will be able to source sufficient drivers will be through sudden and significant hikes in the rate they are paying.
“End-users of agency drivers should therefore work closely with their recruitment and insurance partners now to mitigate such risks, by gradually tapering up wages for CPC-qualified drivers, splitting or subsidising the cost of CPC training with their agency suppliers and dialling back their reliance on DNI to help get more young people into the sector.”
Demand for Driver CPC training tailed off slightly in March, with a 14 per cent drop in training hours and drivers attending training compared to February. However, March saw 16,771 drivers complete their first 35 hours of training, and an additional 1,436 new drivers acquired the Driver CPC qualification by examination.
The Driver CPC training sector continues to expand, with 15 new training centres being approved, and approvals awarded to 288 new courses.
Official figures show that over 613,000 drivers have now completed their Driver CPC training, meaning the industry is on target to have sufficient drivers trained before the September 2013 deadline for the passenger sector.
Year-on-year, 2012-13 saw a 25 per cent rise in the number of trainees, a 20 per cent rise in the number of training centres and a 15 per cent rise in the number of courses offered. Audits of training centres by DSA and JAUPT increased by 30 per cent.
The Road Haulage Association will be surveying its members for their views on DCPC over the next two months, to highlight the industry’s experience of the scheme – good and bad – and to point to how the industry and regulators might approach the second five-year period, starting in Autumn 2014.
It has been confirmed that the way the directive has been implemented is to be reviewed by the European Commission, following evidence of complaints and inefficiencies across the EU.