Trucking Lives is a three-year research project (2022-2025) funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of their Transforming Working Lives research priority.
The project is collaborative and multi-institutional including researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Huddersfield and Newcastle. It seeks to: 1. make visible the everyday experiences of work and life amongst UK truck drivers, 2. interrogate the changes being brought about in the trucking industry, and 3. find means to improve the work and life conditions of UK truck drivers.
Road haulage is central to the smooth functioning of people's everyday lives. This became particularly evident when the shortage of drivers to transport goods left supermarket shelves empty and petrol stations with limited supplies.
The acute driver shortage was the culmination of a number of different events including Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and tax changes, and while the shortage has abated – for now – the issues remain: truck driving work has not been well understood by planners, policymakers and others, and changes to infrastructure (roads, services), congestion, pay and social perceptions has made many drivers leave (or plan to leave) the sector.
A 2021 Logistics UK report recognised the truck driver workforce as predominantly male (98%) and white (96%), statistics which have not changed much in recent years. As a result, the UK government has sought to diversify the sector. This diversification agenda has aimed to attract younger workers, as well as women and ethnic minority workers to logistical work and truck driving in particular.
To do so, a number of actions have been introduced including offering free or subsidised licensing, upgrading roadside facilities, and improving public perceptions of freight work.
In Trucking Lives, we seek to understand the varied experiences of UK truck drivers - across ages, ethnic identities, gender identities as well as career stages (including retired drivers). We want to better understand the ways that truck drivers balance the demands of life while being truck workers.
Our project will use a variety of different research methods including both quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews to answer the the following questions:
(1) How is trucking work experienced, coordinated and represented?
(2) What needs to change to attract and retain a diversity of workers?
(3) Who are the key actors in effecting change and improving the lives of truck drivers?
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