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Fathers putting families first adds to lorry driver shortage

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lorry driver crisis HGV
lorry driver crisis HGV

Fathers wanting to spend more time with their children is contributing to the shortage of lorry drivers, MPs have been told.

Industry experts said younger generations of men were increasingly put off the job because of unpredictable working patterns and long hours spent away from home.

Jenny Tipping, a lorry driving instructor who returned to working for Royal Mail during the pandemic, said this was at odds with “the way that people want to live their lives”.

It comes as the industry grapples with a significant shortage of drivers that has pushed up prices and caused widespread delays.

Ms Tipping told MPs on the transport committee she had become an instructor because it involved working from 8am to 4pm on weekdays.

“Even though it's paid less than working nights for the Royal Mail, I like that flexibility – I like having a life,” she said.

“I think what's shifted is, yes, being able to sleep in your own bed, but also ... parenting. Both parents want to be involved nowadays.

“I've spoken to quite a lot of drivers from the older generation who are all gradually retiring and the number of them who've lost their first marriage because they were never there ... people don't want that in their lives anymore. It is not just women who want to watch their kids growing up. People want a more predictable life.”

The transport committee is taking evidence for an inquiry into the problems faced by hauliers.

Earlier this year, industry groups estimated there was a shortage of 100,000 drivers due to the cancellation of tests during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as post-Brexit restrictions on foreign workers and tax changes.

Retailers such as Tesco, John Lewis and Aldi have increased driver wages in a bid to ensure they have enough staff for the crucial Christmas period.

However, Ms Tipping said merely raising pay might not be sufficient because the industry was simply “not attractive enough, for enough people” anymore.

Her comments were echoed by Kevin Richardson, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, who said the sector was losing drivers unhappy about the uncertainty of shift patterns.

He told MPs he had received a delivery from a driver who worked Monday to Friday but was about to quit after his company decided to start operating “24/7”.

“His contract is just about to be changed and at that point he is thinking of leaving, because he doesn't know which two days out of seven he will get off as a break,” Mr Richardson added.

“I think for people with families, both male and female, that is an extreme difficulty. There's a need to look fundamentally at shift patterns and the whole nature of how they operate.”

He admitted that the issue posed a dilemma for companies because lorries are assets "that you need to sweat and operate as much out of the 24 hours as you can" to make them profitable.

According to industry estimates, 99pc of lorry drivers are male.

Some executives dismiss claims the young are not interested in lorry driving as “a myth” and point to the high cost of obtaining a licence.

But Jim French, managing director of training organisation Road to Logistics, said the crisis in lorry driving would not be solved until firms managed to convince more people to remain in their jobs.

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