Logistics companies around the world continue to wrestle with a chronic shortage of HGV drivers. This crisis is complicated and affects many markets and will take a long time to recover from.

However, there is a road to recovery. 

Take the UK, for example, where recent statistics have been a cause for cautious optimism. The Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed a record number of HGV driving tests are now underway. Analysis of a recent Labor Force Survey by the Office for National Statistics indicates that while the employment of HGV drivers is still concerningly low, their numbers haven't dropped as much as in recent quarters.

As an industry, we need to nurture these signs of recovery to help them grow. A long-term solution to the shortage doesn’t end with attracting new HGV drivers. The industry needs to be able to retain a skilled workforce too. For this, the day-to-day experience of HGV drivers must continue to improve.

Automating the warehouse not only prepares the business for ongoing staff shortages but also makes the workplace safer, more efficient, and more pleasant. For HGV drivers, this involves concentrating on the loading bay.

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prioritising drivers

According to our research, 90% of UK logistics firms have been impacted by the HGV driver shortage. Furthermore, the UK Warehousing Association found that warehouses in Britain are paying up to 30% more in wages than in previous years to recruit entry-level workers.

Of course, improving pay is just one part of successful staff recruitment and retention strategy. Important factors for anyone considering a new role, or their future career, also include job satisfaction and safety. However, the role of HGV drivers remains fraught with inefficiencies, which can have a big impact on morale.

The Talent in Logistics survey showed that less than a third of HGV drivers feel valued, while a majority feel disengaged. After all, who wants to work in a cold, damp, and potentially dangerous unloading bay? Or work a longer shift just to wait in a warehouse car park for the chance to load or unload?

A focus on the loading process is a vital next step in warehouse automation. Removing inefficiencies from everyday operations always makes good business sense. Doing this will also improve the work experience during a time of staffing problems, which is even better.

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improving processes

Lorry driving, and working in logistics in general, is a demanding profession. It’s very physical and drivers are under pressure to deliver goods to their destination within the allotted travel time.

On arrival at the loading bay, however, HGV drivers will often have to wait for hours while warehouse workers use forklift trucks to load and unload the trailer. It can take up to 45 minutes to load a full trailer.

To improve this work experience, we need to use automated solutions to make loading and unloading faster. For comparison, an automated loading system can complete the loading procedure in less than five minutes. Automating this logistics part reduces accidents and product damage, making it safer for everyone involved.

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automation in action

For example, a warehouse or factory can make 928 pallets daily, moving 32 pallets at a time over a 27km/16-mile distance. To accomplish this, we would need 12 HGV drivers working in shifts for 24 hours, along with three forklift drivers.

By automating the loading process, thereby speeding up the turnaround time of each trailer, the company would stand to save 12,350 hours of HGV driver waiting time in just one year – a reduction of 85%. This would go a long way in addressing the uncertainty and stress associated with meeting strict delivery deadlines.

During times of staff shortage, automating the loading process also alleviates the strain on HGV drivers and companies by effectively halving the number of shifts required. The need for forklifts is removed from the process entirely, reducing the site’s overall number of forklift-driven kilometres per year by 2,642km.

It all amounts to a safer and more efficient loading environment, which has a profound impact on the day-to-day working experience. Additionally, for the business, it means a more streamlined and cost-efficient operation, better use of available space, and reduced damage to equipment and products.

To build and retain a skilled and contented workforce, logistics companies must continue to innovate and improve the HGV driver experience. Automating the warehouse is a journey, and automating the loading process is an essential next step to gaining efficiencies that will also positively impact driver satisfaction and productivity.

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the complete guide to decreasing driver wait times with automated loading

Logistics is a fast-moving industry, and long driver dwell times (the total time a driver spends at a facility) are not good news for any businesses, as common as they are.

Excessive dwell times create bottlenecks when goods arrive at ports, can cost truck drivers money and, since the driver must still meet the delivery deadline, create a safety risk because the driver may feel under pressure to drive faster when they leave the warehouse, factory or another facility, or breach safety requirements, to get back on schedule.

We've explored how to solve this issue in our complete guide to decreasing driver dwell times article available now.

Learn More
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