A new initiative is aiming to tackle the shortfall of at least 60,000 Large Goods Vehicle drivers in the UK, which poses a significant threat to the UK economy.
Heightened by the potential loss of European drivers post-Brexit and the problem of an aging workforce, if the industry fails to reverse the situation, driver shortages are predicted to rise to 150,000.
Now the Road Haulage Association (RHA) is working with national apprenticeships provider Seetec to attract young drivers and support them to gain their LGV licence along with the necessary practical, technical and legal knowledge to succeed in the industry.
Mark Taylor, Head of Learning and Development at the RHA (pictured), said: “This apprenticeship offers a new opportunity to not only get funding but also to offer a training programme that goes beyond simply acquiring a licence to deliver the competencies required to be a professional driver.”
Large companies can fund the Level 2 apprenticeship – designed by the LGV driving industry – through their Apprenticeship Levy, while smaller firms only have to pay ten per cent, with the remainder funded by the government. Existing employees can also train as drivers.
Seetec will work with employers to assist with recruitment, and take care of licence applications, driver medicals, all theory and initial CPC training and tests, as well as practical driver training for the apprentices to gain their Cat C Licence.
Seetec is currently working with more than 40 logistics employers, with around 50 LGV driver apprentices already underway and around 200 being actively recruited or due to start in the next few months.
The RHA’s Mark Taylor continues: “Drivers have a whole suite of responsibilities around working time directives, security of load, weight limits maintenance and checking the vehicle, which goes way beyond being qualified to drive the vehicle.
“That’s why the apprenticeships are a great way to address the skills shortage, because they deliver people into the industry who are capable of doing the job.”
Mark pointed out that the road haulage sector has paid £150 million into the Apprenticeship Levy and only drawn down £10 million so far. “There’s never been a better time to invest in people and get new skills into the industry to replace the drivers who are retiring.”
The Freight Transport Association’s 2018 Skills Shortage report found the average age of drivers had increased to 53. Nearly two thirds of drivers are aged over 45, partly due to a failure to retain younger drivers.
Lauren Webb, Seetec’s Head of Employer Solutions & Strategic Partnerships, explains: “The shortage of drivers means many businesses are forced to use agency drivers, which is incredibly expensive.
“The situation has become more critical as many EU drivers who worked in the UK have returned home, fuelled by Brexit fears, and there is a significant shortage of women, with just one per cent of LGV drivers being female.
“New driver entrants are facing rising costs to gain their licence and CPC. This initiative allows employers to use their apprenticeship levy to train new drivers, which also helps to foster staff loyalty and understanding of organisational culture and practice. Seetec offers flexible training schedules to meet organisational needs.”
Stewart Hook, Group Learning and Development Manager for major construction materials group Breedon, is currently working with Seetec to recruit the Group’s first ten apprentice drivers. He said: “We have had a lot of interest from people working in different roles who want to be drivers, but the cost has previously proved to be a barrier.
“We are making use of our Levy and addressing the issue of our current driver age profile. It is not sustainable for the industry to be recruiting drivers from our competitors, it is a far more attractive option to be able to grow our own drivers.”
Transport and logistics group, Europa Worldwide Group, recruited a number of LGV driver apprentices through Seetec last year. Malcom Castle, General Manager Domestic Transport at Europa commented. “With the well-publicised driver shortage within the UK, our sector needs to address the situation. It is important from Europa’s perspective that we offer opportunities to all staff that they are able to grow with us, showing that we are committed to developing and investing in our team.”
One of the apprentices Aron Golding, 28, who previously had no experience in driving LGV trucks added “This is a great new challenge and the role gives me the feeling that I am in charge of my own work load.
“It’s definitely something different from what I was used to doing and this provides the opportunity for a new long-term career. I am thankful to the company for the opportunity to further my own career here at Europa.”