An innovative way to boost driver numbers


New funding from the DfT will allow the Road to Logistics scheme to train veterans, ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed to become qualified HGV drivers. This approach in turn will help tackle the industry's driver shortage crisis. GreenFleet finds out more

The haulage industry is suffering from a shortfall of some 60,000 HGV drivers. What's more, just one per cent of drivers are under 25. This was said at meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Road Freight and Logistics, which was established to promote and represent the interests of the UK road haulage and logistics industries, and provide a forum to discuss the opportunities and challenges.

The recent FTA’s Logistics Report, which polled the opinions of more than 500 freight and logistics businesses operating in the UK and internationally, found that businesses anticipate that 15 per cent of their current HGV driver vacancies will not be filled. A further 36 per cent expect a long delay to find the right candidate.

To help tackle the problem, a programme which helps people from all walks of life enter the haulage sector has been given a £1 million funding boost from the Department for Transport.

The not-for-profit programme Road to Logistics aims specifically to support those who may find it difficult to get permanent jobs, such as veterans, ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed, by training them so they can enter the transport sector. This approach in turn helps tackle the haulage industry's driver shortage crisis.

The funding from the DfT will enable logistics companies to run skills training for these groups.

Founded by the Road Haulage Association and Microlise, Road to Logistics will help hauliers find new logistics professionals by offering support and training to those that struggling to find permanent employment.

Following a successful trial with HM Prison Sudbury, the scheme aims to train up to 300 drivers in the first year as part of a pilot. The first-of-its-kind plan for the industry will see serving prisoners linked with potential employers, undertake crucial training and gain qualifications, including taking their driving test. They will have a guaranteed job on release, helping them turn their back on crime and transform their lives.

What's involved?

Road to Logistics supports people into a career in the industry through a process of assessment and training.

The candidate is assessed for suitability. Following this and once accepted a practical driving assessment will be carried out to understand the level, skill and aptitude of the candidate. A medical is also undertaken to ensure that the physical demands of the job will be met.

Driver CPC Module 3 and Driver CPC Module 4 tests are then completed.

Road to Logistics graduates receive extensive training and benefit from an extensive support network, with an assigned liaison officer who acts as a regular point of contact and keeps in touch regularly.

To ensure successful placement, graduates are carefully matched to specific employers across a range of criteria.

John became the first person to complete the Road to Logistics training programme. Working with Brit European he obtained his Class 1 HGV licence in September 2016 and is now employed as a full-time driver.

Achieving two objectives

Road Haulage Association Chief Executive Richard Burnett said: "Road to Logistics provides a framework for candidates to gain their entitlement to drive a HGV and fully support and mentor their transition into a career in logistics.

"It is fantastic that government is supporting an initiative that will help to resolve the shortage of drivers whilst providing a helping hand for those that need it the most."

Microlise executive director, Bob Harbey said: “We firmly believe that Road to Logistics will play a central role in addressing the sector’s skills shortfall and are extremely pleased that Government is providing the support that is so desperately needed.

“The shortage of HGV drivers is a massive threat to the economy. Without them, the wheels of the UK road transport industry will, quite literally, grind to a halt.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Our dynamic road transport sector moves more than 1.4 billion tonnes of goods across the country every year, so we need to make sure it is fit for the future.

"Not only will this new programme help make this industry even stronger, but it will help pave the way for those who may be struggling to secure a permanent job and turn their lives around.

Labour shortages conference

To equip companies with the practical knowledge and tools they need to recruit and retain staff, FTA has launched a new one-day event, The Labour Shortages Conference.

Taking place at the Macdonald Burlington Hotel in Birmingham on Tuesday 29 October 2019, a variety of expert speakers will provide the audience with practical advice and tips on how to implement effective recruitment and retention strategies. Combining interactive workshops, case studies and informative speaker sessions, attendees will learn how to engage effectively with local communities, produce relevant recruitment campaigns, implement training programmes and build impactful social media strategies.

Sally Gilson, head of skills campaigns at FTA, the only business organisation representing all of the logistics sector, commented: “The nationwide shortage of skilled staff presents a serious challenge to logistics businesses; significant shortfalls of HGV drivers, warehouse staff, fitters, technicians and mechanics are all anticipated to continue in the next 12 months, which could be exacerbated by the loss of EU nationals from the UK after Brexit.

"Between an aging workforce, competition for skilled staff and shifting migration patterns, the sector is facing serious obstacles in the recruitment and retention of staff; FTA’s Labour Shortages Conference will arm companies with the practical knowledge and tools they need to face these challenges head on.”

Jason Greaves, operations director at ManpowerGroup, the company sponsoring the event, said: “We’re very pleased to support this event that addresses such a critical issue at such an important time. As one of the largest and most established employment companies in the sector we’ve first-hand experience over many years of what the talent shortage means to the industry and in helping clients overcome this. I look forward to sharing some of the steps we have taken such as through our newly launched Driver Academy and also our schools outreach programmes – initiatives that help promote the sector to the next generation and provide a source of qualified drivers. But I am also really looking forward to learning how others are addressing these challenges.”