The ongoing driver shortage is by far the most significant challenge facing the road transport sector in 2018 and a growing cause for concern amongst logistics operations, according to the findings of Paragon Software Systems’ annual UK customer survey.
Almost half of all respondents stated that the lack of drivers and other skilled workers across the industry was the biggest barrier to success, up by over a third compared to the previous year’s results.
Asked what the logistics sector needs to do to attract young talent, over a third felt that more education and training initiatives were needed – including improved engagement, more apprenticeship schemes and better-defined career paths – while a quarter believed improvements in pay and working conditions would help. Concerns were also raised about the image of logistics, with some suggesting that the sector needs to promote itself as a modern and innovative industry that is embracing the latest technology.
Transport costs remained the second biggest challenge (13%), with congestion, lack of investment (both 7%), and urban transport restriction (6%) also identified as notable issues. Meanwhile, the need to compare planned routes against actual performance (46%) and demand for more accurate time windows (45%) were cited as the most significant planning pressures as companies contend with rising fuel prices and changing customer requirements.
In fact, the results suggested a clear shift in what people are looking for from logistics services, with a staggering 86% saying that customer expectations had increased in the past 12 months. The main driver of this was the request for greater levels of visibility and accuracy, including the provision of faster and more regular deliveries, as well as increased reporting and real-time communications.
The most significant transport development in 2018 is expected to be around vehicle innovation, but when asked specifically about emerging technologies there was a mixed response. Almost 20% already have a fleet strategy for electric or hybrid vehicles, with a further 26% expecting to adopt in the next two years. But over half had no immediate investment plans in place. With regard to driverless vehicles, around 45% thought it was a good idea in principle, but this was countered by over half believing it was either not appropriate for the UK road network or was simply too far in the future to form an opinion.
“The road transport sector continues to face considerable challenges around resource management and service delivery,” William Salter, the MD of Paragon Software Systems, said. “The findings of our customer survey highlight the importance of using routing and scheduling software to help manage all available drivers and vehicles at an individual resource level. This means that logistics operations can mitigate the impact of driver and skills shortages, as well as meet the increasing expectations of customers.”