Road to ruin?

working time law threatens to create a recruitment crisis for the freight and
haulage sector. Ben Willmott reports on how employers are responding

It has been estimated there will be a shortage of 80,000 lorry drivers in
the UK once new European legislation limiting driver hours comes into force.

Under the Working Time Directive for Mobile Workers drivers will be able to
work a maximum 48 hours a week from 2005, creating a huge recruitment head-ache
for the sector.

The Road Haulage Association is so concerned about the impact of the
legislation that it has this month written to Alistair Darling, secretary of
state for transport, urging the Government to challenge the European Commission
on the legality of the directive.

Ruth Pott, head of employment for the RHA, believes the directive will have
a devastating impact on the industry. Not only will haulage firms have to hire
more drivers as working hours are cut from an average of about 62 to a maximum
of 48, but they will struggle to hold on to their existing staff because of
cuts to overtime pay.

The Freight Transport Association has also responded to the recruitment
challenges facing the sector by running a series of initiatives to promote
career opportunities for drivers as well as warehouse operatives, logistics
directors and depot managers.

John Hix, head of training and development for the FTA, said the organisation
recently launched its Smart moves – make a career in freight scheme at the CV
Show at the NEC in Birmingham aiming to improve the industry’s macho and
old-fashioned image.

"The idea was to show the best side of the industry and help blow away
its negative image," said Hix.

The FTA has produced careers booklets for school and college leavers,
promoting the range of opportunities available to them within the road haulage

Hix believes employers in the sector must do more than wait for the next
generation of school leavers to meet their skills needs and take advantage of
the diversity in the employment market.

"We are competing for a scarce resource so we’ve got to attract career
changers and look for people from different resource pools, whether male or
female, unemployed and youngster to over 50s," he added.

The RHA and FTA believe that the freight and road haulage sector will be
better equipped to cope with the challenges it faces if its bid to achieve
Sector Skills Council (SSC) status is approved by the Government over the next
few weeks.

Ian Hetherington, chief executive of the Road Haulage and Distribution
Training Council, told Personnel Today that a SSC recognition would increase
the sector’s lobbying power and lead to more investment in training.

He said the sector has already made much progress in improving its image
through the introduction of schemes such as Modern Apprenticeships for drivers,
which allow people as young as 18 to start training as drivers.

"We are not going to change the attitudes of young people overnight,
but this is part of a 10-year plan. Young people will be interested in joining
the industry if opportunities are right," he said.

Bert Proctor, director of employee relations at parcel delivery giant TNT,
estimates the company will need to employ an additional 300 collection and
delivery drivers on top of its 1,500 if the Working Time Directive for Mobile
Workers is introduced in its current form.

"We will seek to train more drivers ourselves. We will look closely at
people we already employ, warehouse operatives, for example, to see if we can
develop them as professional drivers," he said.

The company has already taken steps to make it a more attractive employer.
Training is linked closely to recruitment and retention to ensure potential
recruits are aware of the career development opportunities within the firm, and
that existing employees have a clear career path.

Ruth James, group training and development manager, said TNT has employed a
number of driver development officers to ensure their drivers can fulfil their
full potential.

The company is able to demonstrate that it puts its policies into practice
because its managing director Tom Bell is a former driver who has worked his
way up through the ranks.

As part of the development process, the company puts all its drivers through
their master driver qualification.

"They are our frontline troops. They are the ambassadors for the
company so they need customer care skills to ensure they look and act the part.
It also gives them a feeling of being a professional," said James.

All employees are given annual appraisals to review their performance, set
objectives and identify any training needs.

Staff who are taking their first steps onto the management ladder are put
through a first-line management course. Senior managers go on a corporate
development programme run by Nottingham Business School.

Employers in the sector should also look to other industries for recruits,
according to Robin Cooper, group HR director at logistics company Ryder.
Cooper, who joined the road haulage sector six years ago from the manufacturing
industry, said: "At Ryder we are throwing away the perceived wisdom that
people need sector experience and are increasingly recruiting from outside the

"A good business developer just needs to understand the nuances of the
sector to get to grips with the job. One of our most successful general
managers was recruited from the tyre industry. Do we really need someone who
has spent their life in the road transport industry when someone with fresh
thinking may be preferable?" he asked.

Cooper admits there is also a challenge for the road haulage industry in
competing against other sectors where margins are not as tight and therefore
salaries are very competitive in those sectors. Because of this, haulage firms
are increasingly introducing employment practices that offer a wide range of
benefits, such as generous pensions, car allowances and employee share schemes.

Cooper said Ryder’s three-tiered policy of training junior, middle and
senior managers to attract high calibre candidates and improve the performance
of existing staff and attract new employees is already paying dividends.

Case Study: Christian Salvesen

Transport giant Christian Salvesen is
another firm in the sector placing an increasing emphasis on training and
development in order to recruit and retain good staff.

Christian Salvesen runs a variety of training and development
programmes ranging from graduate trainee schemes to conversion courses for
drivers or supervisors who are ready to move into their first management

John Paterson, group HR director of Christian Salvesen said:
"This industry does not have a good reputation for training managers. It
is often assumed that a good operations person can be a good manager, which is
not always the case."

The company uses the national examining board in supervisory
management (NEBS) for those moving into managerial roles and the Henley
Management College for middle managers who are eager to move up the corporate

Paterson said: "It’s not uncommon for people to make it
from the shop floor to a NEBS course. We have regular succession planning
meetings to decide who goes on the courses."

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