A lack of skilled HGV drivers is by far the biggest concern for the future among road transport operators, according to the Asset Alliance Motor Industry Monitor.
It was the main concern for 57% of the road transport operators surveyed, ahead of legislation curbing the use of diesel engines (20%) and an uncertain future outside the EU (14%). It is estimated that sector is facing a shortfall in skilled labour of between 45,000 and 50,000 drivers.
Published by Motor Transport, the Monitor surveys the size, shape and sentiments of the road transport industry. It shows that over a quarter of operators plan to buy alternatively-fuelled commercial vehicles during the next three years. A further 46% said they had no plans to do so but accepted that their plans might change by 2020, with 24% ruling it out altogether. Around 10% said they were unsure. Electricity was the most popular choice for alternative fuel (13%) rather than gas (10%), with ‘other’ accounting for 2.5%.
Key points from the report include:
• The total number of O-licences in issue fell 4% year-on-year in 2016/17 to 79,596.
• The overall number of HGVs specified to standard national O-licences (accounting for 51.8% of all HGVs over 3.5-tonne GVW) dropped by 1.6% year-on-year to 192,271 units in 2016/17.
• It costs the average owner-operator a maximum of £34,048 to set themselves up as a single vehicle business running a 44-tonne artic.
• There are now 868 businesses in Britain with fleet assets above 50 vehicles, a rise of just ten businesses in two years.
• Almost two-thirds (62%) of respondents said that they expected business performance in 2018 to be either slightly or significantly better.
• In terms of overall economic prospects for the road transport industry, a combined total of 53% believe leaving the European Union will make no difference, or make things slightly or significantly better.
The report concludes that, despite concerns about major challenges facing the industry, “the road transport industry remains remarkably upbeat about its prospects for growth … it points towards an industry that survives with healthy and successful businesses driving a sustained period of growth in UK road transport.”