Fears of soaring driver costs as the road transport directive comes into force this month have been allayed, according to a new survey.
The survey of more than 5,000 drivers from 23 companies, carried out over the past few months by supply chain consultancies Scala and Aricia, shows that although the average working week is now over 52 hours, the impact of the directive -- which imposes a maximum average working week of 48h -- has significantly reduced.
"It's not as catastrophic a change as people first thought," says spokesman Peter Acton, who also represents the Department for Transport's (DfT's) Respect for People benchmarking initiative, which aims to enhance driver recruitment, retention and development.
The survey concluded that the flexibility provided by 'periods of availability' -- basically anticipated waiting time -- and longer night working had substantially changed companies' views on the impact of the legislation.
"In a survey last July Scala found 88% of companies believed they would need to increase numbers of drivers," says Scala md John Perry. "The new survey shows, for companies responding, this has now dropped dramatically to less than 15%."
However, companies representing 80% of drivers believe there will need to be a restructuring of driver work or shift arrangements; 56% are expecting a rise in driver wages and 64% are planning to increase customer prices.
But it is the need to raise the standing of drivers, and improve their working conditions, that is believed necessary to attract the numbers and quality of people required to meet future needs.
Respect for People, whose web site is http://www.respectforpeople.org, was launched in February 2004. It is a confidential online driver management project which allows firms to compare a number of key performance indicators. They cover: driver welfare; safety and security; facilities and amenities; training and development; personal and professional standards; and equality and diversity -- although not driver pay.
From the results obtained to date, while improvements have been made in the areas of driver welfare, training and development, employers still have some way to go in terms of of driver facilities and amenities provided.
Although currently free to use, thanks to an initial share of £3m of pump-prime funding from the DfT, the service is likely to become fee-based going forward.
It currently has over 200 company users, of which around 15% are from the food and drink sector. As well as food and beverage manufacturers operating from multiple sites, such as Arla Foods, other users include multiple retailers and hauliers, such as Bibby Distribution, Exel and Wincanton.