How can Construction businesses use technology to tackle driver shortages?
The shortage of HGV drivers in the UK has had widespread impacts on the supply of goods throughout Industries. Larger supermarkets have doubled the wages they pay their drivers as a short term solution to this long-term problem, whereas other businesses who rely on third-party services have suffered immensely and goods simply aren’t reaching the shelves.
For the UK’s construction industry, the impacts of a widespread driver shortage are obvious. Supplies and materials aren’t able to reach their destinations in time and in the correct amounts, which is putting strain on tight resources, budgets, and teams to get projects done in time.
So what are the various factors contributing to driver shortages in Construction?
Various factors have contributed to this ‘perfect storm’; Brexit and the ex-migration of existing drivers back to their countries of origin have contributed to this deficit, and the Government’s furlough scheme has resulted in a lack of potential workers looking to start working in the transport sector.
More long-term factors are the stigma attached to lorry drivers, and the stereotypes attached to these types of careers. This has meant that over decades, fewer and fewer people are being funnelled into a career in driving, resulting in the average age of an HGV driver in the UK being now 55. With a lack of young people looking for work in this field, the pool of potential employees is declining and the shortage we see today is worsening.
Furthermore, there are currently 600,000 people living in the UK who have an HGV drivers license but aren’t actively using it.
Issues for Construction & the consumer trickle-down effect
The Construction industry, and particularly small-medium sized construction companies are facing the brunt of these shortages.
Insufficient numbers of drivers has meant that supplies and building materials aren’t accessible or able to reach their destinations, either on time or at all. Businesses are struggling to provide waste removal along with a number of other basic supplies.
This has resulted in projects, big or small, are unable to be completed on time using the resources available, resulting in lost profits during an already stressful period.
Furthermore, drives are beginning to get paid more, to incentivise people to take up work and fill the gaps in these shortages, but this means that the price of construction is set to increase, which will cause a variety of issues and challenges down the road.
This will cause a trickle-down effect that replicates what we are experiencing in the retail sector. The need to meet demand with insufficient numbers of drivers has led to increasing pay for these workers, with this funding coming for rising food prices that have been passed on to the consumer. This has been criticised as being an unsustainable solution to an issue that has a variety of contributors.
With the attempts to reverse the impacts of these shortages on a Government and Industry-wide level being insufficient, what can be done on a business level to tackle driver shortages?
There are opportunities for individual businesses to address and prevent the impacts of these shortages, with careful investment in ways to use the resources they have available, in the most effective way.
Investment now for long-term relief and competitive advantage
Reviewing each aspect of the operation, seeing how well it works as a whole and addressing areas of inefficiency or profit losses that can be improved. Not about a one-stop solution, but improving various aspects of the operation, to reduce profit loss by improving productivity.
◉ Eliminating Paper Processes
This goes for any business looking to impact their overall productivity, which directly affects profits. Removing the use of paper to plan, log, and report day-to-day operations saves a huge amount of time and effort in the long term, along with providing numerous benefits that mostly go unnoticed.
We recently covered a full breakdown of the benefits of going paperless, but for this article, we will highlight a few of the impacts from day one of removing paper:
1. Savings on resources
Removing paper records and turning to a digital filing system means you can completely remove the investment in the resources used by office teams and drivers to make reports.
On a daily basis, this may seem like a small investment, but like everything, these costs build up over time and have an impact on the business. Saving investment wherever possible can help you to grow profits and invest these saving in other areas of the business.
2. Reduced admin
With a digital system safely storing the information your teams put into them, means your employees save huge amounts of time throughout the day that would usually be spent updating delivery records, reviewing documents, or handling invoices and payments. Again, this time can be re-invested as you see fit.
3. Reduced manual error & Driver Productivity
Digital reports only need to be completed once. Let’s use the example of a driver using a mobile app to record a delivery of supplies.
Once the delivery is made, they can record the materials, quantities, and total costs of the delivery, take an electronic signature or a photograph as proof of delivery and handle payments through their device. This information will be sent straight back to your offices where it can quickly be reviewed there and then, before the sales order can be processed, invoices can be prepared and you can get paid.
This entire process can take place in less than an hour, rather than waiting all day for drivers to return with reports, which then need to be reviewed and recorded again onto a separate system.
Your driver doesn’t have to risk losing paperwork which then needs to be duplicated, and they don’t need to wait until the end of the day to hand over all of their delivery reports and updates to the office team. They can focus on their deliveries, meeting ETA’s and customer service, while your office teams can process orders far more quickly. The bottom line is massively improved efficiency and a smooth daily operation that benefits from an improved order-to-cash flow.
Removing paper improves each of these areas, which may seem like small aspects of a larger operation, but a seamless day-to-day operation with improved productivity lets your teams focus on their primary tasks, managing their resources better so deadlines can be met.
◉ Route planning, driver tracking and flexible scheduling
Traditional ways of route planning aren’t always the most effective. Digital systems now use various ways to speed up the process and help you to manage your drivers, orders, and vehicles more flexibly.
Route Optimisation systems automatically calculate the quickest route for each driver. Not only does this reduce fuel costs, saving you money, but it also means ETA’s can be met every time and customer service can be improved.
Amongst the current driver shortage crisis, construction businesses that are planning more efficient routes, are able to handle demand more effectively and are reversing the impact of having too few drivers to fulfil deliveries.
Drivers can benefit from having quicker route times, meaning they can always pick up more jobs and earn some more money each day.
Digital systems also offer the ability to monitor driver progress in real-time from any device. This is helping operations to track each driver, and improve response times to delays or disruptions that could otherwise have a big impact on the fulfilment of orders that day.
A clear view of the day’s operation from the office helps you to stay on top of your teams, help to ensure order fulfilment while sticking to ETA’s and deadlines. All of this can be achieved while improving flexibility, re-assigning deliveries to drivers where necessary so demand is managed.
It is unlikely that any construction business can completely avoid the impacts of driver shortages. However, there are various ways that investing in a digital system can help construction operations work more flexibly and use resources more effectively to manage demand and meet project deadlines, reducing the impact that these driver shortages can have.
If you’d like to speak with one of our team members about your operation, which areas you want to see improve, or you want to discuss your plans for growth and the potential for RouteMagic to help you achieve those goals, then you can contact us using the details below.