‘The haulage industry may grind to a halt’ when Brexit hits due to driver shortages

The new team at Drivers Direct, Bury Saint Edmunds office

The new team at Drivers Direct, Bury Saint Edmunds office - Credit: Archant

The director of a new employment agency for drivers in Suffolk says that with Brexit around the corner, the shortage of drivers in the UK is getting to “crisis point”.

Drivers Direct new office - Bury Saint Edmunds. Picture: Drivers Direct

Drivers Direct new office - Bury Saint Edmunds. Picture: Drivers Direct - Credit: Archant

Drivers Direct, one of the UK’s leading providers of temporary and permanent drivers to commercial organisations, has just opened a new franchise in Bury St Edmunds.

MORE: The opportunities for Suffolk as a major distribution hub in the age of online shoppingIts director, John Major, claims that the demand for drivers has never been greater.

“We are addressing a big demand for drivers, there’s a real shortage in the UK at the moment,” he said. “There has been for some years but it’s getting to a crisis point. I don’t know what they are going to do when Brexit hits and the foreign drivers go home.

“The haulage industry may grind to a halt!”

Mr Major claims that not enough new drivers are being trained up at the moment, because it costs too much money. “But we need to inject money into this, because almost everything in this country moves by road,” he added.

Drivers Direct’s new office on Angel Hill is the latest addition to the company’s network of 22 branches across the country and its third franchise in Bury, serving blue chip clients across East Anglia.

The demand for lorry drivers in Suffolk is made all the more pressing by plans for more than six million square feet of warehousing on ten sites in Suffolk and Norfolk within 40 miles of Felixstowe - much of it along the A14 corridor, which has caused the section of road to be termed ‘the logistics highway’.

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It means that in the future, much of what we buy in Suffolk online from overseas can go straight from Felixstowe Port to a nearby warehouse, and then straight on to our homes.

Around 350,000 sq ft has already been completed.

One thing that might put people off the idea of becoming lorry drivers is the prospect of working unsociable hours, but Mr Major claims that actually, some of his HGV drivers prefer to work nights.

“The roads are quieter then, it’s easier,” he said. “They can work on their own without a boss peering over their shoulder, and the money is better for night work.

“We get lots of drivers aged 45 plus who have been made redundant and start driving as their next career. Its a tough industry, but if you do it right, you can be very successful.”

Mr Major claims that more drivers these days prefer to work for an agency as opposed to being contracted to a company, because of the independence it gives them.

“Then they can work when they want to and it’s not doing the same thing day in, day out. We supply to both haulage and distribution firms, and every day is different. Our drivers like the variety.”

Mr Major and his wife Bev Major, the franchise’s finance director, ran an employment agency in Bury Saint Edmunds 25 years ago, then moved to Northampton where they still run a Drivers Direct franchise. The couple has recently moved back to Bury to be closer to Bev’s family.

Established in 2002, Drivers Direct covers all driver classes, from chauffeurs and fork lift driver’s right through to LGV Class 1 and 2 drivers, and supplies more than 1,100 drivers a week to clients from across the public and private sectors.