“Abysmal” facilities for truckers are one of the key reasons the sector is facing a shortfall of around 60,000 drivers.
An event was told conditions inside the cab were comfortable, often including a television and fridge, but things were very different once drivers stepped outside the vehicle.
Ray Ashworth, managing director of DAF Trucks, speaking at a Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum seminar on freight and logistics, showed a slide of a burger van parked in a grimy industrial access road. He said: “Great once you get in the cab, but when you show the facilities: absolutely abysmal.”
John Parkinson, director of motoring, freight and London at the Department for Transport (DfT), said the 60,000 shortage was a “pressing issue for the sector”.
He said 48,000 HGV driving tests were taken each year, following training that costs £3,000. “Despite the cost of training there are significant numbers of new drivers looking to enter the sector,” he said. However, a pass rate of 53 per cent meant “more work is needed on training”, said Parkinson.
He said the DfT was working with job centres and establishing apprenticeships to boost the number of drivers but there was a need to “improve the image of the industry and address poor facilities available to drivers”.
“There is scope for the industry to broaden its appeal to potential drivers,” he said. “HGV drivers are highly skilled operators and they should be valued as such. This is a hugely important sector and critical to the UK recovery.”
Parkinson said the DfT was aiming to reduce the regulatory burden on the sector by £435 million by the end of the parliament.
There were calls at the seminar for a national freight and logistics strategy to be developed.
Nick Platts, head of cargo at Heathrow Airport, said: “We would welcome a national framework. We see a lot of fragmentation in the industry.”
Parkinson said: “I think the government’s view is the market should solve issues as they come up, rather than an overarching framework.”