For employers in any sector, finding top talent to grow a business is never easy, but for a variety of reasons it is becoming even more difficult for those seeking to recruit and retain experienced HGV or other fleet drivers. Robin Woodbridge explores how companies can invest in supporting staff to help drive recruitment and staff retention.
Whilst some companies prioritise searching for a candidate who is the complete package, others look for individual traits such as cultural fit, efficiency and keenness to learn. With unemployment levels at a record low, employees have more choices than ever. This makes for an extremely competitive job market and increases the need for good recruitment and retention strategies, not least within the transport and logistics sector.
Transport for London’s proposed Direct Vision Standard (DVS), which is designed to improve road safety for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), has helped to push welfare up the corporate agenda. From October 2020, the new standard states that every lorry over 12 tonnes will require a permit to enter the capital. By controlling HGV movements in this way, added protection is granted to vulnerable road uses and pedestrians. Whilst issuing permits is a step in the right direction for other road users, more needs to be done to improve the welfare of HGV drivers themselves.
Long-term investment in people
Despite efforts to recruit more women, the transport and logistics sector is still very male-dominated – 78% of workers in the sector are men. Many are likely to suffer from the effects of prolonged sitting, tiredness, and long/non-traditional working hours. It is unsurprising in the current climate, that the sector scores relatively unfavourably for work–life balance and there has been a rise in the number of drivers reporting mental health issues.
Whilst there are obviously a variety of reasons for these health issues, a lack of access to basic facilities while on the road or making deliveries can be challenging for drivers. For example, on arrival at a business park, whilst queuing for their slot at dispatch and receipt, they may find there is a distinct lack of restrooms and other facilities. This can make drivers feel unwelcome and some report feeling that they are treated like second-class citizens.
For a growing number of employers in the sector, this situation is no longer acceptable, and they take the view that if they are going to look after the welfare of their own drivers, they also need to cater for others delivering goods to their depots. At a time when many businesses are focusing more on their corporate social responsibility, taking action to improve facilities for their own and other drivers can help to enhance their employer brand.
Concerns surrounding ageing drivers and the worsening skills shortage have added to the growing sense of urgency among employers, prompting them to take driver welfare even more seriously. Whilst park security is important, firms increasingly want to give the same level of care and facilities to inbound drivers, as currently exist for their outbound fleet. Forward-thinking developers of business parks are also helping to raise the bar by ensuring the highest standards of welfare are built into properties and the park environment at design stage.
When moving to a new site or choosing a location for a new depot or distribution centre, many logistics firms have recognised that adopting a more sustainable mindset can bring real commercial benefits; helping them to attract and retain skilled drivers.
Building sustainable communities
As acquiring land in the UK becomes more difficult, there is an increased focus on the longevity of industrial property. Options such as building above regulations are regarded as positive investments that tenants expect and value. Parks owned by a central property company that has a vested interested in maintaining the buildings and upgrading them regularly, is bound to provide better facilities for tenants, regardless of the length of their tenure.
When building or upgrading business parks, developers are allocating more space and resource to welfare facilities than ever before. As well as creating more restrooms and shower room facilities, greater thought is given to ensuring there is plenty of daylight and making room for driver-friendly facilities such as lockers, a canteen and even an onsite gym.
The next phase of development at Prologis RFI DIRFT III is set to address the key issues of driver welfare from the outset. As well as restrooms, washrooms, and cooking facilities, secure HGV parking for 300 vehicles is to be embedded as part of the centralised park facilities. A further scheme at Prologis Park Marston Gate Milton Keynes, which is subject to planning permission, is promising to raise the bar further by creating a well-equipped workspace and lorry park facilities, which exceed standards previously seen in the sector.
Leading from the front
By investing in this way, developers and owners of logistics property have the power to help their tenants to make the best decisions, not only for their workforce, but for the industry as a whole.
Once regarded as an additional cost, employers in the transport and logistics sector now recognise that investing in driver welfare can deliver commercial value. By teaming up with property companies with a long-term interest in the sector, they can differentiate their brand and be better placed to attract and retain skilled workers in the future.
Robin Woodbridge is head of capital deployment at Prologis in the UK, specialising in the development of welfare for logistics firms and other businesses.