Written evidence submitted by Road Haulage Association (RHA)





Established in 1945, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) is the UK’s only trade body dedicated to the operators of commercial vehicles — trucks, coaches and vans.


Our membership includes 8,500 members, ranging from owner operators to those with fleets of over 2,000 vehicles, and 85% of our members are small and medium-sized enterprises. Between them, they account for over 250,000 commercial vehicles currently operating on UK roads.


The RHA has a substantial commercial arm offering a range of membership services including audits and compliance. As a training provider, our driver training schools in Bathgate and Peterborough train new drivers, bringing in new talent to the industry.


We campaign on behalf of our members and work closely with the UK Government, devolved administrations, and local and combined authorities across the UK.





This evidence focuses on the road transport sector and how the decline in participation in skills training can be addressed and reversed.


Ensuring people are skilled and have the correct training to do their job sufficiently is essential for a productive workforce. The road transport sector is constantly evolving and the ability to train both new and existing staff is crucial to keeping the supply chain moving.


This sector has seen significant changes and developments in recent years: fuel prices, staff shortages, increased automation, digitalisation and moves to decarbonise have all had an impact. This change will continue at pace as we step up the transition to net zero and will require investment in new vehicle technologies and in the skills for the people working within the sector.


The skills shortage in the road transport sector is a chronic issue that continues to affect supply chains. There has been a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK for several years, however the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the UK’s departure from the EU, has created an acute shortage. Today, the RHA estimates there to be a 50,000 shortage of drivers.


The transition to net zero will require further investment in infrastructure, software and new vehicle technologies, as well as skills required for the people working within the sector now and in the future.  In the transport sector we have seen significant developments, such as in HGVs with increased software, automated safety systems and improved engine emissions. All these new technologies require practical continuous training, but it is difficult to train people for jobs that don’t yet exist.  Training should therefore be focused on skills such as problem solving that can be applied across a range of roles.


We believe that a long-term skills strategy is needed for the road transport sector, focused on creating a home-grown and sustainable workforce. This must include much better promotion of logistics careers in schools and higher education colleges, as well as making skills training available for people of all ages and backgrounds to recruit and retain employees in the sector.


We would like to provide information on the following issues.


National Skills Fund


The National Skills Fund should be opened up to all levels of training and cater for the many occupations that require training to start from foundation level. The RHA has just launched a skills funding guide to help logistics businesses across the UK gain access to the funding currently available regionally and nationally. Given the rising costs for businesses to operate with already tight margins, it is vital that employers can access funding to help ease the cost in training new staff, upskilling current employees and for future skills needs.



Creating a T-Level in Logistics


Working in the transport sector or logistics more broadly is not currently seen as an exciting career option for young people, despite the crucial role it plays in the UK economy.  Creating a T-Level in Logistics would provide another path into the sector along with an opportunity to gain access to colleges and demonstrate that the sector offers more than a job driving a lorry. A course linked to the Transport and Warehouse Level 3 standard, for example, would provide an overview of logistics beyond driving. Students would be provided with a wide range of opportunities within logistics, introducing them to the environmental challenges, planning, software development, procurement, globalisation of the supply chain and supervisory skills. This type of opportunity would go some way in attracting young people to the sector and provide critical skills for work.



Reforming the Apprenticeship Levy


Apprenticeships are a key route to a career in the transport sector but are not a practical option for many learners and employers, particularly those looking to retrain or move into the sector. For larger organisations with established HR support and internal training teams, apprenticeships are usually easier to run.  For smaller businesses an apprenticeship can create a heavy administrative burden, along with the challenges of providing suitable work and additional training requirements. 


An additional barrier to completing an apprenticeship is the requirement for a certain level of maths and English. Whilst maths and English are important subjects, obtaining a specific level of competency should not prevent a learner from accessing training.


The RHA recently published a paper calling for the Apprenticeship Levy to be reformed to a Skills Levy, to provide businesses with funded access to the training that best fits their requirements.  A reformed levy would provide flexibility for the learner and employer alike, that can react to and prevent future skills shortages.  Under the current Apprenticeship Levy funding can only be used for apprenticeships of at least 12 month’s duration, a format that is inflexible and fails to meet the needs of many employers across the economy. 


Apprenticeships have a vital role to play in the transport sector, however the apprenticeship model does not suit everyone.  Opening levy funding beyond apprenticeships would enable short modular courses and bootcamps to be funded, along with fully funded training for non-levy paying businesses and traineeships to prepare people for a new work environment.


Logistics companies are complex and varied, providing a range of services beyond road transport, including warehouses, workshops, and back-office functions.  The greater flexibility, reduced administrative burden and more sector-appropriate training opportunities from a recast levy would:



Providing flexibility to choose the training scheme that’s right for learners and employers would make training more valuable, responsive to needs and shortages, and more likely to deliver a successful outcome. A variety of training routes would encourage a more diverse group of learners – including age and location – and help businesses to retain employees by upskilling where possible. 



Skills bootcamps


The HGV skills bootcamps provided a viable and flexible training scheme, allowing for a greater diversity of learners of all ages and backgrounds. Many training providers were over subscribed for the scheme, with the first quarter of 2022 showing record numbers taking their HGV driving tests.  In March 2022, 10,481 HGV tests were taken with 6,307 passes, surpassing the pre-Covid high of 7,323 tests and 4,268 passes in March 2017.  


The HGV skills bootcamps have been successful and the RHA is keen to maintain funding to this training scheme as an alternative to apprenticeships. We welcome the government’s recent announcement that a further 4,000 places will be available via the HGV skills bootcamps programme for 2023.


We believe the skills bootcamps should be opened up to coach and bus driver licence acquisition along with HGV driving.  The coach and bus sector has lost many drivers who converted to HGV driving due to the salaries and opportunities available.  There is also a lack of nationwide training provision, with few providers offering Category D training, which has exacerbated the coach and bus driver shortage.  Opening skills bootcamps to Category D licences would provide an additional training incentive.


Given the success of the HGV skills bootcamps, the RHA believes that a commitment to long-term funding for the bootcamps is needed to keep the programme going and help address the skills shortage in the transport sector.





October 2022