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Haulage industry has been left in 1960s, says Bradford academic

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Dr Kamran Mahroof

Supply chain expert says haulage industry needs tax breaks on fuel, subsidised training schemes and purpose-built, better-quality truck stops

Hauliers should get more lucrative tax breaks on fuel, subsidised training schemes to offset the cost of gaining licences and have dedicated 24-hour truck stops with better facilities such as showers and lounges - that’s the view of University of Bradford supply chain expert Dr Kamran Mahroof.

The former Morrisons supply chain specialist was responding to the current national HGV driver shortage.

Speaking shortly after appearing on the BBC’s national news programme, he said the Government needed to switch from being reactive to proactive.

Perfect storm

“In many ways, this has been the perfect storm in terms of the national shortage of HGV drivers and it affects the supply chain, right down to consumer behaviour, such as panic buying. The point is, this should have been planned for long in advance, especially because we saw panic buying during the first lockdown.

“The second point is conditions are not good for lorry drivers and costs are high, so there are many barriers, not just to entering the profession but staying in it.

“Simple things such as improving conditions for drivers at truck stops, ensuring they have shower facilities, places to relax, nice food, would go some way to making the profession more attractive and showing we value them.

“We could also see incentives such as subsidies for training schemes - it’s very expensive to get your HGV licence - and better tax breaks on fuel, the rising cost of which is something the haulage industry has had to bear to the point where profits are squeezed to the absolute limit and sometimes beyond.”

Shared economy

Dr Mahroof, from the University’s School of Management - currently shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Awards 2021 as Business School of the Year - had other suggestions.

“During this ongoing crisis, we could also have better co-operation across the sector between suppliers, customers and even competitors to help with the shortage of drivers. Competitors often source from the same suppliers and compete for the same market, therefore collaboration between competitors could assist in alleviating pressures within the haulage sector. So, this would mean limiting competition to an extent and ensuring trucks are fully loaded - for example, this might mean trucks delivering to several different supermarkets in one run.

“We’ve already seen organisations easing off competition in order to ensure service delivery, so we need a tactical approach. Employers also need less red tape in terms of getting people into the trade, pay needs to be better, and we need to look at the representation of a more diverse workforce in the trade. Drivers' hours are another issue.”

He added: “Yes, this situation has been amplified by covid but we need to understand that the underlying issues are not new. Haulage costs have been rising for many years, drivers are reluctant to do overtime, and, in general, it’s not perceived as a trade to be proud of - we need to change that.

“Regardless of whether it's driving a truck or something more mainstream, the question we need to answer is how do you attract people into a sector which has been neglected. We’re talking about systematic change across the sector. Ultimately, the problem is that we have developed everything else, but we have left the haulage industry in the 1960s.”

 

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