28 September 2021

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The transport sector is facing unprecedented challenges with shortages of vehicles, parts, drivers and repair technicians. We look at the issues and how to mitigate their effects…

While the problems of vehicle, parts and driver shortages have been bubbling under the surface for many years, the pandemic has brought them to the fore and created a perfect storm for fleet managers to deal with.

Vehicle shortages

The continuing impact of Covid-19 is having a huge impact on the supply of parts, resulting in lengthy delays to vehicle orders. One of the key drivers in this is the global semi-conductor shortage – a key factor as these are used extensively in new vehicles.

With huge order backlogs caused by closures at the height of the pandemic in 2020 (and a series of natural disasters across Asia where many of the factories are located), these manufacturers are diverting their supply to more profitable sectors such as telecommunications.

As a result, some vehicle manufacturers are finding themselves at the back of a long queue for the components, and waiting times for parts can be in excess of a year.

This is also impacting on factory orders for new models, with waiting times in excess of 12 months common across volume manufacturers’ ranges.

Consequently, some vehicle specifications are being modified to downgrade models to get around the semi-conductor shortage – items such as wireless charging plates, hands-free boot access, LED headlights and certain infotainment systems are being removed from the standard specification of some models.

Parts and technician shortages

As well as a shortage of vehicles, the industry is also facing huge delays in getting parts into garages and a shortfall in technicians to work on the vehicles.

The reasons for the parts shortfall is outlined above, emphasising the need to plan ahead when it comes to SMR work to minimise vehicle downtime.

You need to know if the parts you require are in stock, or if not how long they will take to arrive. Unless the part is a safety critical item, it may be worth rescheduling the SMR work to a later date when the part is ready to be fitted. You can read our guide to cutting vehicle downtime here.

Personnel issues are also causing a headache for garage operators - the industry is facing a skills shortage thanks to a huge reduction in the number of apprentices joining the sector.

A recent report from the Department for Education revealed that apprentice recruitment into the automotive sector was down 75% in June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 – and vehicle maintenance and repair apprenticeships fell by 87% year-on-year.

This has been driven by businesses reducing overheads as they battled to stay afloat during the pandemic, but is also part of a long running trend of youngsters leaving the sector due to issues such as low pay, poor working conditions and a lack of career progression.

The March ‘emergency’ Budget saw the extension of an incentive for employers to take on apprentices (it expires at the end of September), but employers are still paying the Apprenticeship Levy and are, therefore, able to take advantage of funding to recruit apprentices.

Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), said: “Many automotive employers are still contributing to the apprentice levy, and seeing unused funds clawed back by the Government. We are encouraging employers to use rather than lose their levy money, making full use of the additional support funding announced in the Chancellor’s emergency budget.

Driver shortages

The Government has ripped up the rule book when it comes to driver assessment, streamlining or removing certain aspects of the testing regime for all drivers as it aims to keep the logistics industry running (you can read about the challenges it is facing here).

HGV tests have been streamlined with drivers only having to take a single test to drive both a rigid and articulated lorry, rather than having to take two tests three weeks apart.

Rules of towing have also been relaxed – there is no longer a specific test for towing and reversing with a trailer.

Combined, these initiatives are said to have freed-up 50,000 additional HGV tests in order to get more drivers on the road in lorries. A survey by the Road Haulage Association estimates there is currently a shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK and is calling on the Government to make apprenticeships more affordable to tempt people into driving as a career. Elsewhere, trade body Logistics UK says there is a backlog of 25,000 tests for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency to work through.

Allstar ServicePoint is a leading solution for those seeking improved efficiency in their fleet maintenance management. Using one online portal, you can book, approve and settle all vehicle maintenance requests for privately-maintained company vehicles. Find out more here.

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