The start of a not just a new year, but a new decade, is a good moment to reflect on recent developments and think about what they might mean for the future of the HGV industry. Nottingham Driving School, specialists in HGV and forklift training, provide their opinion about what the future holds:
Recruitment and retention may get a boost from younger women
Out of the 315K lorry drivers registered in the UK, only 7% are women, but 15% of those women are in the 21-25 age group. The HGV industry is reading this as a positive indicator as it sees the recruitment of women as being hugely important not just to maintain the necessary numbers of drivers (as people move on or retire) but also to address issues of gender equality for which the logistics industry has long been criticized.
The Freight Trade Association has called on the government to create an affordable loan system for people who wanted to train as HGV drivers since it believes that the cost of obtaining the necessary licence can be a significant barrier to entry to the trade. If it were implemented, it is to be expected that younger people would likely be the most to benefit from it and this might also help to increase the number of younger women HGV drivers.
HGV drivers are not likely to be automated any time soon
In theory, it is already possible to create self-driving HGVs. In practice, such vehicles are highly unlikely to be allowed on public roads any time soon, if ever. The reason for this is that public roads, by definition, are basically open to anyone, including very vulnerable categories of users such as cyclists. Self-driving cars have already caused fatalities when operating in autonomous mode. It therefore has to be assumed that HGVs could also do so and the fact that they are significantly bigger and heavier than cars means that they could cause a whole lot more damage.
There is also the fact that humans can be held accountable for their actions behind the wheel, whereas autonomous machines cannot. This raises all kinds of questions about assigning liability in the event of an accident. It has been suggested that you could have one driver in charge of several vehicles, but given the skill needed to supervise even one HGV, it’s hard to see how this could be safely put into practice.
HGV drivers can expect stricter and smarter security
The police are now adopting HGVs to enforce security on the roads. The key advantage of this approach is that HGVs offer a higher vantage point than regular cars and vans. This means that police get a much clearer view of what drivers are doing. In particular, it allows them to see directly into the windows of HGV cabs to see if the drivers are following the rules of the road.
Feedback from the police indicates that while the HGV patrols catch a variety of offences, the number one offence by far is illegal mobile phone use. While this is unlikely to come as a surprise to anyone, what may come as a surprise is the frequency with which HGV drivers are caught out using their phone when they shouldn’t, even though it can put lives in danger and cost them their freedom as well as their licence.