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2021 in Transportation & Distribution: What Can We Expect?

Author: Julie Jarvis

Published date: 2021/02

2021 In Transportation & Distribution What Can We Expect

We’re all aware that 2020 was a year of challenges, and 2021 hasn’t started on the best note either. While some industries are dealing with a total shutdown, others are experiencing an unprecedented demand for services. 

When it comes to transport and distribution, the rise of e-commerce and the urgent need for healthcare supplies across the UK suggests it’s an excellent time for the sector. However, such a surge in demand has brought challenges that have affected the strategy and direction of many businesses in this field. Here, we examine some of the key opportunities and challenges facing the transportation and distribution sector in 2021.

There’s STILL a skills shortage 

Before the pandemic, there was already a shortage of Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) drivers to the tune of 50,000. While job losses across a range of industries coupled with huge recruitment drives from supermarkets and major courier companies should equate to the perfect storm, regulations and testing capacity has caused delays for new recruits, particularly those needing training and certifications. 

For example, Covid restrictions mean that current test capacity for LGV drivers is approximately 60 per cent, leading to a loss of around 16,000 new passes. With the vaccine rollout not expected to be completed until the autumn, the training and testing of drivers is likely to remain at the same level for most of 2021. Additionally, costs associated with training for prospective drivers, particularly for smaller courier companies that don’t have the resources or budgets to carry it out internally, will prove prohibitive for those looking to enter the profession. 

Image problem?

Even getting over the testing and certification hurdle, driving, whether LGV, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) or couriers, doesn’t carry the best reputation. Whether it’s the prospect of long working hours or concerns around safety, businesses in this field have an educational piece to consider if they want to recruit fresh talent.

Where a simple advert on a job site was once enough to recruit drivers, companies are increasingly investing in developing their employer brands to highlight the benefits and rewards of the occupation. From creating dedicated careers pages on websites through to implementing targeted social media adverts, 2021 will see employers step up hiring efforts to secure the most qualified talent on the market, as well as try to appeal to a younger demographic who may not have considered a career in this field. 

Focus on diversity & inclusion (D&I)

In September 2020, Lauren Romansky, Managing Vice President of the Gartner Human Resource practice, highlighted that the world was experiencing three crises - health, economic and racial injustice. This culmination has led business leaders to push issues to the top of the agenda they may not have prioritised before.

The pandemic has simultaneously exacerbated existing inequalities while creating new opportunities for diverse workforces, particularly in industries dealing with escalating skills shortages. While diversity extends far beyond gender, only 20 per cent of automotive workers and 10 per cent of executives in the automotive industry identify as female, indicating there’s work to be done and a plethora of talent waiting to be tapped into.

Employers will build on these initiatives in 2021 and publicly demonstrate their commitment to becoming genuinely diverse and inclusive places to work. The work will extend beyond slick marketing campaigns and instead see barriers of entry in recruitment processes removed and incentives such as flexible working hours for those with external commitments offered as standard.

Going green (albeit slower)

Legislation, such as the 2030 petrol/diesel ban and the introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZs), is powering the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) for those in transportation and distribution. Additionally, businesses in general are under increasing pressure to lower their carbon footprint and become more sustainable entities, meaning transitioning to EVs, which help reduce emissions, improve air quality and save on the bottom line, is inevitable.

However, there are several barriers to ensuring this becomes a reality. A long-running issue is that the UK's charging infrastructure is still a work in progress, which the Government is trying to tackle with a £1.3bn investment in charging points and £582m in grants for EV buyers. More recently, factors including Brexit and the pandemic have slowed down the production of EVs, meaning plans to make the switch have been delayed for many businesses. 

Additionally, managing director of fleet management software provider FleetCheck, Peter Golding, warns that shortages in the skills required to handle the transition could hinder EV uptake. He said: “Deciding which is suitable requires in-depth research and a level of expertise that many businesses simply can’t access. Especially, something that we are now starting to see are shortages of fleet skills in some organisations because of redundancies or furloughing among experienced staff because of the pandemic.”

While businesses may not fulfil planned EV rollouts in 2021, strategies will be bolstered to ensure it can happen at the earliest opportunity, with investments made in appointing key personnel with the vehicle acquisition skills required to make it a reality. 

Need to recruit drivers in 2021? 

As one of the UK’s leading driving recruitment agencies, PRS is the go-to destination for businesses looking to secure LGV and HGV drivers at all experience levels to join their fleet on a permanent, contract or interim basis. Submit a vacancy or get in touch with one of our experts today.