In partnership with Brake, the Road Safety Charity, we’re giving thanks to the biggest asset in the Transport sector: our drivers.
They travel our streets every day, deliver essentials to save our communities, and keep us connected with those we love and miss. But we don’t even know who “they” are.
So together we’re asking, at long last, “Who is a Commercial Driver?” as we recognise the real people behind the wheels, and their stories.
The pandemic has heaped masses of extra pressure on our commercial drivers, and yet without their continuous efforts, communities across the nation would have struggled without access to essential goods, services or healthcare. And it’s exactly because of this that we think it’s time to say something that’s long overdue: thank you.
To us, commercial drivers truly are hidden heroes. But there’s something wrong with that sentence.
We want to bring these drivers into the limelight, show them off and emphasise just how much they mean to us. We appreciate them, we value them, and we’d be lost without them.
It’s safe to say that their work has at many times been taken for granted when supermarket shelves were full – but when empty, we quickly began to see the impact of life without commercial drivers. “Whatever you get delivered, whatever you buy, there’s always a lorry involved somewhere” comments Ryan Leat, Commercial Driver. “You go into a shop for a loaf of bread, well someone’s had to get out of bed and go and deliver that, just so you can have toast.”
It’s so easy to forget just how much goes on behind the scenes when we nip into our local supermarket, and so many of us rarely consider the logistics of how those items got there in the first place. Yet, when the pandemic hit the UK and basic essentials were in short supply, we soon stopped and thought. “I was delivering to a store, and I had toilet roll, it was just toilet roll, that was all; and they go, oh look he’s got toilet roll” added Leat, “I took it off and pushed it up into the shop and then they’re taking it off the cage!”
But it’s not just in our supermarkets where we’ve seen the physical impacts of our drivers: it’s quite literally all around us. Philip Moores, Highways Operator for Amey, has been working throughout the pandemic as part of “the maintenance response team in Area 10, which keeps our motorway roads running safely”, and Rebecca Beechey has been non-stop as a Transport Planner for Speedy Services, both key workers keeping our logistics and supply chains going as smoothly as possible without major delays or disruption.
With these businesses and so many more around us in mind, our “Who is a Commercial Driver?” campaign, has one clear objective: to show our true appreciation.
Just short of the coronavirus outbreak during February and March, Talent in Logistics carried out a survey which saw over 1,300 respondents comment on driver engagement. As a result, the survey highlighted that not only do just 30% of HGV drivers in the UK actually feel valued, but that 9% blamed the driver shortage on facilities, with poor pay (34%), poor working hours (19%) and a lack of respect for the role (12%).
It’s these statistics that really bring home just how much of a change needs to made to make our drivers feel as though they are the biggest asset in our industry. Richard Lilwall, Managing Director at Teletrac Navman comments that “they’re real people too, they are fathers, they’re mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, children – these are real live people and they’ve got their own pressures at home to deal with, and yet they’re continuing to work to make sure we have what we need to continue with our lives.” A stark thought, and one which means even more when we recognise that the 19% of survey respondents who reported poor working hours, have been away from their families and loved ones even more so due to unavoidable social distancing restrictions and isolation protocols.
Peter Cairns addresses this in his role as a Class One driver for John Pearce Transport: “I might work as a commercial driver, but I’m not just on my own… we work as a team here.” He was further supported by A Hingley Transport driver, Kenneth Egan who added “my wife works in the healthcare profession; she gave me the inspiration I needed to help support the country.” Both confirming just how important it is to keep a strong sense of togetherness and emotional support, bringing back the elements of closeness we lost throughout the lock down.
The research also found that a mere 49% of drivers felt motivated to work for their company, with overall employee engagement standing at around 48% - significantly lower than the national average in which two-thirds of UK workers are satisfied with their jobs, according to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
As Samantha Leleu, Pertemps Driving Division General Manager highlights: “The industry has faced real challenges for several years and these challenges became even greater during the recent pandemic,” Talent in Logistics business development director, Ruth Edwards, also adds: “If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is to value the key workers we have in this country.”
This year, so many commercial drivers have been working tirelessly behind the scenes, day and night, sacrificing so much for everyone else around them.
Bob Winter from Driver Require Ltd who has been a HGV driver for over 40 years, says that this year has been particularly meaningful to him. “To think that most commercial drivers have been doing things so worthwhile for the UK recently, literally keeping us all fed” is a huge achievement.
Fellow driver Andrew Collins agreed, saying that working throughout the lock down was, to him, a privilege. “I was very grateful… working daily during that period gave me a sense of purpose, and a feeling of being really able to contribute.” A heartfelt message to sign off, Collins added a genuine “thank you to Driver Require, for helping me to help the nation, and the ones I love.”
And it’s that feeling of appreciation, that we want all of our commercial drivers to feel, always. Whilst Leleu rightly states the added importance of this since the pandemic, we are seeing that those businesses who bring their drivers into the limelight are seeing the differences it makes in their drivers, certainly emotionally.
“I’m proud to play a vital role in my local community,” Andy Vernon at Auto Installations states. “I feel valued.”
So now’s the time to recognise the people behind the wheels as each and every driver has gone so much more than just that extra mile.
In the words of Paul Neal, Logistics Supervisor and HGV driver for O'Donovan Waste Disposal Ltd, our commercial drivers have been “keeping our country moving” throughout the most challenging of times.
And with that, we now know the perfect answer to our question:
Who is a Commercial Driver?
They are our hidden heroes.