Richard Madej, Head of Driving at Gi Group UK, highlights the crucial role logistics operations are playing in the changing economic landscape – and why organisations and drivers in the sector have the chance to thrive like never before in these unique market conditions.

As we continue to see the personal and economic impacts of Covid-19 across the UK, it is with great care that we talk of opportunity. Yet with so many businesses and livelihoods devastated this year, it is crucial to recognise positive news where it arises and identify hopes for future prosperity.

One sector which has been in the spotlight throughout the pandemic is transport and logistics – proving absolutely critical to businesses and consumers during the initial lockdown phase and establishing itself as an absolutely fundamental pillar of the UK moving forward.

 

The rise in demand

The logistics industry touches everything in UK business – covering a multitude of sectors and aspects of our lives. Online retail is one specific part of this that provides a tangible and topical example of the explosive growth that the sector is experiencing

E-Commerce sales have sky-rocketed in the UK since March, accounting for 30.7% of all retail volumes in April and are continuing to rise. And where there are online sales, there are deliveries. And where there are deliveries there are drivers. From forklifts in warehouses, to HGVs keeping shelves filled to LCVs carrying outdoor drops, drivers have stepped into the limelight as the sector has played a leading role to keep the UK moving.

Retailers with effective delivery capability have seen massive growth. Boots, for example, has seen a surge in online orders – up 100% year on year. Aldi has invested £1.3bn on its omnichannel and distribution centre expansion creating 7,000 new jobs while Tesco has projected a sales increase of £2.2bn over 2019 and pledged a further 16,000 permanent job opportunities as a direct result of the online boom.

With the seismic shift to online retail looking set to remain, opportunities for drivers in the UK are greater than ever before. Indeed, according to the Recruitment & Employment Federation’s latest figures, job postings for HGV drivers, for example, are now 43.3% higher than they were in March.

Statistics from across the industry are mirrored by our own experience. Gi Group has seen a 31% increase in demand for LGV drivers since July off the back of an increase of 69% in demand for home delivery drivers in April. Neither trend shows signs of abating – not least as we enter the traditionally busy final few weeks of the year.

Investment in the sector shows the belief about its future prospects. Take-up of logistics space and warehousing is 111% higher than this time last year providing a sure sign of the confidence that exists. Furthermore, with future developments on the horizon, such as mass vaccine distribution and the Royal Mail shifting to seven days per week and set to launch its 72p parcel pick up service, the demand for skilled drivers is only going to get stronger.

 

Under appreciated

The road haulage and logistics industry is worth £124bn to the UK economy and is the fifth largest industry in the UK. More than 2.5 million people are employed including logistics coordinators, data analysts, IT specialists, designers, warehouse staff, administrators, accountants, managers, technicians, planners, drivers and more.

Until Covid there has been little appreciation for the sector, its companies or its workforce despite it transporting and delivering 98% of our essential consumer goods such as food, medicine, clothes, etc.

Until now that is. In these unprecedented times, many businesses’ logistics divisions or external providers have been thrust to the forefront of operations and their support is in high demand. For organisations, professionally delivered logistics services will drive significant and sustainable growth. For job seekers with experience or interest in driving, this period represents the chance to enter an increasingly buoyant, respected and reputable career path in a sector which is experiencing a boom like no other.

At Gi Group we have built the experience, expertise and reach to connect these two tribes and support them both in maximising this unprecedented increase in demand.

 

Changing Perceptions

The logistics industry has changed dramatically over recent years and the prominence of sector and the roles within this year has expedited that change even further.

Previous stereotypes of the typical trucker are being replaced as we now live in the time of a more diverse and professional LGV driving workforce. And now more than ever is a chance to change those perceptions permanently – focusing instead on the significant opportunity in front of us and the need to attract hungry and enthusiastic individuals into this rapidly transforming sector.

Drivers in 2020 must be professional in every way as they increasingly become the public face of their organisations, with traditional touchpoints closed or re-modelled. They will need to be astute to cope with some of the challenges they face with plotting routes, prioritising deliveries and embracing new technology or being customer focussed.

 

Drive and thrive

Undoubtedly this is a growth market – with unprecedented number of roles becoming available. There is currently a massive shortage of licensed, qualified HGV/LGV drivers in the UK leading to tens of thousands of opportunities. Given the industry already faced a driver shortage, the current challenge is certainly a case of demand outstripping supply.

But what about those roles themselves. What do they entail and how can we encourage sufficient numbers to meet the industry’s ever-increasing need?

It is markedly different to typical work. Not everyone enjoys 9-5 in an office environment and becoming a HGV/LGV driver will certainly break that mould. Driving does not resemble the potentially mundane, monotonous office work or production environments. It brings a sense of freedom for the driver who will be occupied and engaged the whole time.

Variety is also a given, often transporting different goods to different locations. The range of companies and types of driving work can also present different workloads, hours and driving distances.

Progression is realistic too. As with any job, the more qualifications and the more experience the candidate, the more money they can earn. Even for those who can only secure temporary/agency work initially, that provides great experience to add to a CV. With a Category C+E licence and a good amount of experience, drivers can earn a very respectable figure of around £35,000 – £40,000 a year.

In terms of attracting suitable candidates, pay will obviously be important, but it is not the sole driver and there are other things organisations can do.

One is to develop your own pool. Whether this be through tailored apprenticeship schemes which we outline below, or through partnering with a specialist training provider to generate candidates and meet the need for skilled and experienced drivers.

Commitments and guarantees can also make a difference. In what is becoming an increasingly competitive role to attract, can you offer something more secure than your competitors? If you’re work is guaranteed or contracted – can you pass on that security to your drivers in the form of regular schedules or guaranteed miles?

Health and wellbeing is often overlooked but can prove influential and a strong differentiator. In what can be an isolated and largely sedentary role, support from the employer can be a significant benefit. Given the older age profile of the traditional driver pool, more generous retirement plans will also be appealing while not hugely costly to your organisation.

 

Sustainable Careers

There is no defined career path for a qualified driver, but work is near guaranteed given its importance to the economy. The logical progression is to start as a van-based home delivery driver and to work up to larger vehicles, but this is not always the case.

In more recent years the industry has also recognised the value in apprenticeships through the ‘Warehouse to Wheels’ programmes offered at many logistics firms. This provides career paths for younger aspiring drivers with employers encouraging their existing warehousing staff to pursue a career behind the wheel.

For many organisations their existing team represents an obvious place to look. It supports the progression of their warehouse operatives or forklift truck drivers to get out on the open road. The offer of training and a guaranteed job driving LGV 1 vehicles makes It is a fantastic opportunity to not only progress existing staff’s careers, but to take them in an entirely new direction – into a role on an upward trajectory with viable long-term prospects.

 

A Perfect Partner

Whether you are a driver or aspiring driver looking for work, or an organisation finding it challenging to fill your increased demand for roles, Gi Group’s driving division can be the perfect partner.

Gi Group UK has been supplying temporary and permanent driving staff since 1988 and has become specialist staffing providers to the logistics & haulage sector.

Over the last 32 years it has established long term supplier partnerships with national and international brands and local businesses in the logistics sector who have been supported and serviced by our dedicated driving division throughout the UK.

Gi Group ensures that its drivers are well looked after too – ensuring that they are given quality assignments, tops rates of pay and expert guidance and support from the company’s FTA CPC trained driving consultants.

Gi Group driving division also offers additional services and support to help develop its client’s drivers and our own workforce, so they remain compliant with legislation and health and safety requirements through the delivery of Gi Group’s own Driver CPC training programme.

Job roles and training courses can be found on our homepage.