Written by Sam Whitmore, Chief Marketing Officer, Cityshuttle

Recruiters in the UK are facing talent shortages in almost every sector right now. However, one sector where the shortage is being felt the most is in the UK’s transport sector.

According to a report by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) in the UK, there is a shortage of around 11,000 bus and coach drivers who hold a Passenger Service Vehicle (PSV) licence in the country. This shortage is primarily due to an aging workforce and difficulties in attracting younger drivers to the profession, as well as changes to licensing rules and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CPT reported that the shortage was causing significant disruption to the public transport network, with some services being cancelled or reduced and others experiencing delays.

Likewise, a survey conducted by the UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) in 2021, revealed a shortage of around 100,000 HGV (heavy goods vehicle) drivers in the country – and the problem is only getting worse as the e-commerce market continues to thrive.

The shortage is leading to increased costs for operators, who are having to offer higher wages and bonuses to attract and retain drivers. In addition to the specialist drivers, many HR leaders are also struggling to find last-mile drivers for smaller vehicles.

The RHA reports that shortages are having a significant impact on the supply chain, with delays and disruptions to deliveries, likely leading to increased costs for businesses and consumers.

However, these are not the only challenges for employers in the transport industry.

With ever-congested road networks and city pollution, it is also difficult for businesses to fulfil their net zero objectives – and increasingly difficult for the drivers they employ.

Delivery drivers have been found to experience high levels of stress and anxiety due to job demands, such as tight schedules, traffic, and customer service. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that truck drivers had a higher prevalence of depression compared to the general population.

If you think you get road rage, spare a thought for delivery drivers. According to a study by INRIX; drivers in London spend 156 hours delayed by traffic each year.

Furthermore, delivery drivers may experience sleep disorders due to irregular schedules, long work hours and sleeping in an unfamiliar environment. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that commercial drivers who reported poor sleep quality had a higher risk of experiencing fatigue-related safety incidents.

While electric and hydrogen vehicles promise lower emissions, they will still need someone to drive them and city roads will remain congested.

This is all compounded by the fact the demand for logistics drivers is expected grow significantly. By 2025, global e-commerce sales will exceed $6.3 trillion (Statista).

In order to solve these issues and build capacity for the growing demand for logistics services, we must reimagine how we move things from A to B.

There are already exciting developments for urban deliveries and public transport on the horizon.  Cities across Europe are tackling the shortage of PSV drivers and congestion by using cargo e-bikes. These pedal-assisted vehicles that can be operated by anyone with a few hours training and can operate freely on bicycle lanes and pedestrianised areas, allowing for quicker and cheaper deliveries. While this will only offer a solution for last mile deliveries, these are the journeys with the highest emissions, operating in the most congested areas and where driver shortages are found the most.

Cargo E-bikes Rapid Transition Alliance member, Possible, conducted studies which found cargo e-bikes delivered 60% faster than vans in urban centres, with higher average speeds and delivered ten parcels an hour, compared to a van’s six. Cargo e-bikes were also found to slash emissions by 90% compared with diesel vans and by a third when compared with electric vans. What’s more, not only do they help reduce congestion – they also offer improved wellbeing for the driver.

What is even more exciting is that the same technology can also offer a solution for passenger transport, with the rise of e-shuttles promising to significantly reduce inner-city travel times, congestion and emissions.

Like other keyworkers, professional drivers are highly sought after and it is likely that cargo e-bike driving roles will be in demand from employers. However, these roles will offer better driver wellbeing and will also help employers meet their sustainability targets.

Long term, it’s likely that we will see increased hybrid working to reduce pollution. However, we need a long-term strategy to tackle the UK’s over-crowded roads if we are to meet the growth in e-commerce that is predicted.  Electric vehicles can play their part, but for the time being at least, drivers remain a valuable asset that need to be retained at all costs.