Thursday 20th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

IT Update (2)

According to figures compiled by Skills for Logistics there are currently 310,000 holders of Large Goods Vehicle Licences (LGV) in the UK which leaves transport companies requiring 4% more drivers just to keep their businesses running at the same pace.

This means the country’s current driver shortfall is 12,000, but if you extrapolate that figure further by considering the number of drivers leaving the industry altogether, the number of newcomers passing tests and future requirements, the figure climbs frighteningly to 46,000 by the end of this financial year.

Just looking at those leaving the profession, statistics show the rate is nearly 7% which equates to some 19,000 drivers stepping out of the cab for good last year. Clearly something has to be done to address this situation but most of the thought tends to go into developing ways to make the job more attractive so as to encourage more people to consider joining the profession and into trying to prevent the haemorrhaging of drivers from the sector.

There is another way to see the problem, which can be a win-win situation for all concerned. Much can be learned from the progress made in increasing warehouse labour productivity through the use of technology, measurement and incentives.

In the warehouse every element of staff time can be monitored and analysed to assess productivity – from picking rate, picking accuracy through to loading vehicles. But everything changes when a driver enters his cab and pulls out on to the open road his time and productivity is all but forgotten.

The vast majority of logistics companies do not accurately measure where their drivers’ time goes. Tachographs are a rich source of data but only used for compliance purposes, roadsheets contain valuable data but are used only for pay, and other sources of data such as gatehouse records and fuel systems can also help piece together driver activity.

What is staggering is that 70% of the data that is captured by companies is never used.

But why is driver productivity not monitored in the same way that warehouse employees’ is? I can only guess that companies have not cottoned on to the fact that large cost savings are there to be had – which I find hard to believe – or they have not found a way of being able to accurately analyse where their drivers’ time goes. While the latter is almost certainly the case it is also the hardest part to get to grips with as a company has to take all of the information available, combine it and produce meaningful statistics that show them where their driver time is really going.

Key3 Partners has worked with many fleet operators in this very area, which leads me to make what some might say is a bold claim, that as much as 10% of daily driver time is unproductive time, which is totally within the control of the operator and can therefore be reduced. At the start of the day drivers check their vehicles before setting off. The checking process should take 15 to 30 minutes but it often takes drivers an hour or more to leave the site. So something is going wrong in terms of site operations whether it be the briefing process, trailer control, or the management process not being sufficiently stringent.

Looking at this as closely as possible though would reveal answers and allow a company to change processes accordingly, thereby saving time, money and importantly driver resource. This, of course, is only one small part of a driver’s time but it does demonstrate that if everyone took the principles on board and began to eat into that 10% unproductive time figure, the driver shortage – which equates to 15% of the current requirement – could be reduced by half or more. And, it does not have to stop there because if organisations also looked at their routeing and scheduling together with driver rota planning even more efficiencies could be identified. Can we significantly reduce the driver shortage by changing local practices? Yes. n

Craig Bunker is managing director of Key3 Partners.

Tel: 01788 540550.