Skills crisis or automation invasion? One in three fear they’ll be replaced by robots

Skills crisis or automation invasion? One in three fear they’ll be replaced by robots
Skills crisis or automation invasion? One in three fear they’ll be replaced by robots

A new report from Mercedes-Benz Vans, released today during National Careers Week, has highlighted a potential skills crisis that could create ‘business gridlock’; almost one in five van drivers, owners and operators are so concerned about skills shortages, they fear it could prevent their business operating in the next 12 months.

In total 70% say their organisation has at least one urgent skills gap or shortage, with the most urgent shortages including vehicle engineers/technicians, skilled drivers and transport/distribution staff.

But as the demand for fast-track deliveries, the growth in online shopping and road congestion continue to spiral, the industry responsible for getting goods from A to B and keeping businesses moving is facing unprecedented challenges and change which is breeding uncertainty and confusion.

In fact, almost a third (31%) of van drivers and delivery drivers think their role could be lost to automation or robots in the next five years.

The findings of the quarterly Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer also suggest that the external reputation or image of the transport, logistics and construction industry is a problem, with one in five believing negative perceptions of their industry could threaten the success of their organisation – something that needs addressing in order to attract new talent.

Just one in five respondents think the Government is doing enough to tackle the skills shortage, and with an estimated 700,000 workers set to retire in the next ten years in the logistics and infrastructure sector alone, a potential skills crisis could be looming for an industry pivotal to the UK’s economic prosperity.

Steve Bridge, Managing Director, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Ltd, said: “Autonomous drive technology and drone deliveries are moving from science fiction to hard fact in the future, so the industry needs to have serious conversations to establish the various options and possibilities that could happen within the next five to 10 years and how they need to adapt accordingly.

“While robots might not necessarily replace jobs, the industry needs to look at upskilling and reskilling workers to ensure that they are equipped to deal with the ever-changing and highly pressurised demands on the delivery business.

“This is such an important sector as it quite literally keeps the wheels of business turning, so needs to proper level of investment, both in infrastructure, but also in people. Our Business Barometer clearly shows there is the potential for a major problem in the next few years, so all options need to be explored.”

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Warwick University’s Institute of Employment Research, added: “Cars and vans that drive themselves, machines that read X-rays and algorithms that respond to customer service inquiries are all manifestations of powerful new forms of automation. Whilst automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will lift productivity and economic growth, many people will need to upgrade skills and/or switch occupations.

“We owe it to our young people and to the growing number of adults facing job change and uncertainty to ensure good careers advice is available to plug the skills gaps and skills shortages in the transport and logistics sector.”

For more information about the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer, please visit or follow #bizbarometer on social media.