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, says a new report from Mercedes-Benz Vans.

In total, 70% of those polled said their organisation had at least one urgent skills gap or shortage, with the most urgent shortages being for vehicle engineers/technicians, skilled drivers and transport/distribution staff.

But as the growth in online shopping, demand for fast-track deliveries and road congestion continues 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 of van drivers and delivery drivers said they thought their role could be lost to automation or robots in the next five years.

The findings also suggested 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 thought the Government was 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.

“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 options and possibilities that could happen within the next five to ten years and how they need to adapt accordingly,” Steve Bridge, the Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said.

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