Chic Brodie

M.D. of Caledonian Strategy and Associate of the Scottish Road Haulage Group


There are some things we take for granted in life. People, events or objects that seem to be, are, a normal part of our lives. Just because they have always seemed to have been there.

But our world, your world, your customers’ worlds, your employees’ worlds could change, and change rapidly over the next few years. No, it is not Brexit, not even snow but something even more tangible and more immediate. It concerns the serious impact that a loss of lorries, or a reduced number of lorries, might have on our personal lives and circumstances and on your business and organisations.

We are facing an impending and near crisis because of the ever diminishing numbers of lorry drivers. The events of the last few weeks, be it the consequences of severe weather or a change in the means of delivering chicken product brings the issue close to home.

A recent report prepared by and for the Scottish Government indicated that we, in Scotland, are short of 11,000 such drivers. When we look more keenly at that number we find that only 2% of our goods vehicle drivers are under the age of 25, 1% are women and 3% from a BAME background.

So what, you may ask? Well let’s look at the whole picture. 55% of lorry drivers are over the age of 50 and approaching retirement. The need for them to re-certify as drivers i.e. re-sit their lorry driving test, driver CPC etc; which when they are already suitably qualified may seem to be nonsense but add to that the possibility of a ‘hard‘Customs Union after Brexit, with all the border delays and frustrations that that will entail and it will ensure, and secure, the additional loss of older and Continental drivers.

So what we hear you ask again? – well here’s what!. Given the above scenario, let’s ask ourselves what may happen when you and your business and /or organisation are faced with that shortage and reduction of trained and qualified drivers allied to a consequent reduction in lorry capacity. Imagine all of these faced with, for example, a week without lorries. Just the impact of a few difficult days recently because of weather has witnessed the impact on loss of food, health and other critical key supplies.

The simple economic and personal truths is that if we don’t embrace the vital contribution that lorries and truck transport have on our daily lives then the future is stark.

A Week without Lorries?

Lorries and trucks, and the people who drive them, are the threads of our economic web, linking not just our airports, harbours, rail but the core of everything that impacts our living and sleeping days.

Truck transport is the commercial blood that flows through our personal, business and commercial arteries. With its drivers come all our living essentials—a combination of superior IT, of driving and technical skills, a knowledge of logistics and quality customer service and the need to be an integral part of health and safety on the road “arteries” here and abroad.

So, a Week without Lorries?

A “crisis” that has until now been largely subdued and avoided because of the dedication of those leading the sector, of those securing the highest quality training parameters and of those who see this not just as a “job” but as a seriously contributing career. But there is a “crisis” is now with us.

“A Week without Lorries”

We all face our different and major challenges in our day to lives and activities but let’s consider how much worse it might be in a world where we have that one week without lorries.

Day 1:

  • Milk and fresh bread run out;
  • Hospitals run out of clean linen;
  • Chemists face shortages in medical supplies;
  • Company stocks – local and imported – are depleted;
  • Production starts to slow;
  • Construction and infrastructure material shortages start to bring these activities to a stop;
  • Senior Citizens Care impacted by lack of food deliveries;

Day 2:

  • Chemists are forced to close;
  • Fresh vegetables and produce start to run out;
  • Some service stations run out of fuel;
  • Restaurants and Hotels run out of supplies –less fresh food;
  • Large supermarkets lose their 10-15 deliveries each day;
  • (Urgent) medicines depend on daily deliveries. Urgent medicines will be delayed;

Day 3:

  • Waste and water sludge become a problem
  • Milk can no longer be picked up;
  • Serious fuel shortages;
  • Serious impact of fuel shortages on public transport;
  • No clean sheets for hospitals, hotels etc.;
  • Because of fuel shortages, air tourism affected with a serious impact on the tourism industry;
  • Routes of bus/train services cancelled;

Day 4:

  • A serious shortage of food supplies;
  • All fuel depleted from service stations;
  • All bus services stopped;
  • Air traffic and airports stop functioning;
  • House waste and general waste piles up in the streets;
  • Significant sanitary, health and safety issues;

Day 5:

  • Drinking water depleted;
  • Hotels close-no customers or supplies;
  • Restaurants close;
  • Industrial production stops because of shortages of fuel and lack of delivery of imported components for finished goods production
  • Water supply stopped as no treatment chemicals delivered to water plants;
  • Food and supply deliveries to schools, colleges and universities and to care centres stopped;

This is Project Reality not Project Fear

Firstly, the general public will feel the cold draught of shortages of food, of fuel, of disappearing jobs because of lack of supplies and components, of disruption to gas, electricity and water supplies, of no waste disposal and of a shortage of healthcare supplies.

Secondly, farmers will immediately feel the impact on milk distribution, disposal of the animal supply chain, delays in harvesting a lack of space all resulting in severe cash flow problems.

Thirdly, production will be affected because of a lack of materials, a lack of or no fuel, a lack of storage space and waste and component disposal.

The list goes on – be it retail, utilities, transport operators, exporters, the hospitality and tourism industries, the fuel supply industries including oil and gas producers, postal and delivery services, manufacturing, construction, and the waste and energy sectors.

We know a week without lorries may be too hard to contemplate or accept. The time for contemplation has gone and the time for acceptance is now with us. Tomorrow is a day too late. One week, only one week, when a major artery of our lives and of a major life blood of our economy could suffer a major flutter or a minor seizure. Snow?

So, in one hour, each of the leaders of major organisations in all our sectors, and each in its sector’s or organisation’s interests pursues and secures a demand for the creation of a larger community (remember the 11,000 driver shortage in Scotland) of professionally qualified and trained drivers of all ages (particularly the young), of genders and ethnicity, and that the Government accepts its role along with the industry and the customers of establishing through that, a commitment to what will be a major contributor to overall productivity and competitiveness.

To leave you with one thought in our busy daily and personal lives –Please remember; “If you’ve got it – a lorry brought it”

(i) Study prepared under the auspices of the Scottish Road Haulage Group.

(ii)Document prompted by an earlier study and documentation produced 9 years ago by the Swedish Association of Road Haulage Association and by Professor Alan McKinnon for Commercial Transport