ELB Partners has adopted military precision in its hunt to secure reliable personnel as the industry struggles to plug a 50,000 national shortage of truck drivers.
The crisis, triggered by more drivers exiting the sector than joining, has prompted ELB boss Peter Eason to turn to XMR, a unique recruitment agency for ex-military drivers, to cost-effectively resolve an issue that is artificially pushing up wage bills.
Consequently, businesses have had to lean heavily on agency drivers, but this short-term ‘premium’ solution inflates supply chain costs that are difficult to pass onto customers in what is still a margin-sensitive sector.
The shortage is so bad that the average age of those behind the wheel is now 54, an unsustainable figure in the view of Mr Eason, a member of the Pallet-Track network, which is encouraging shareholder members to innovate or ‘train the sector’ out of the skills shortage.
“We have a real issue with getting hold of good drivers. I have invested more than £3 million in new Euro 6 trucks to reduce emissions in the capital and I certainly don’t want to have to employ expensive agency drivers, who don’t care what or how they drive, loose with my new vehicles,” he said.
“The guys at XMR are disciplined and reliable and, as a result of their years of service, are more than equipped to drive just about everything that is permissable on the UK roads – their driving licences read like a who’s who of vehicles from trucks to armoured vehicles, and even tanks!
Wandsworth-based XMR, which offers driver work from across the armed forces, was launched in 2013 by Captain Peter Wilson, a former Signals officer, who struggled to find work after he left the Army.
Captain Wilson, who trained at Sandhurst with Prince Harry, said: “We now have more than 200 businesses on our books and match the right candidates to the right business whether it’s a Class 1 or Class 2 driver that they require.
“In this respect we offer a bespoke service for both the drivers and the businesses based upon what both require. The driver may want to work in a certain area for a certain amount of time, for example, so we try and fulfil this as well as meeting the stringent requirements of the customer’s businesses.
“We now have a database of some 125,000 drivers and have a retention rate of more than 90 per cent – it works with military precision.
“We are also cost effective in terms of what businesses would pay an agency and our recruitment fees are also more competitive than the general market, which guarantees that we are always busy,” added Captain Wilson.
According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), there are fears the 50,000 driver shortage is likely to get worse, partly because of the likely impact of Brexit and the ongoing impact of CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) regulations demanding costly re-testing every five years.
“Businesses are continually on their guard against not having the right level of skilled drivers so looking at innovative solutions such as XMR is one way of offering a quality service and defending your competitive advantage in the market,” added Peter Eason.