Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Scheme for Road Haulage Operators to Increase HGV Freight Driver Pool

'Driving Britain's Future' Brings Positive Action to Address Chronic Skills Shortage
Shipping News Feature

UK – There has been much talk of late with regard to the chronic shortage of skilled HGV drivers available to British freight operators, and the likelihood that, with an average age of around 53 years, the situation is likely to worsen progressively as drivers retire, whilst very few are currently being recruited from the younger sector of society. Some 13% of lorry drivers in the UK are over 60, with only about 2% under 25 according to figures released earlier this year but now the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has determined to take positive action to redress the situation.

In an e mail campaign targeted at all its members the RHA has partnered up with Jobcentre Plus (JCP) to promote a fortnightly work experience programme, a scheme spawned by the national agreement signed by the RHA with Department of Work and Pensions a year ago. The RHA wants its members to become ‘torch bearers’ in a positive attempt to redress the alarming driver shortage. Following a successful trial in the Southampton/Portsmouth area through JCP’s Solent offices it has been agreed between the pair that the concept will now be rolled out nationally, the scheme is called ‘Driving Britain’s Future’.

The method to be followed will mean initially that JCP staff, having been fully briefed, will identify candidates seeking employment who are genuinely interested in becoming a lorry driver and who show potential in terms of ability to drive and appropriate attitude to work, given the demands of the industry.

Those selected will be available for work over, probably, three days and up to 30 hours for two consecutive weeks (JCP rules have a 30-hour maximum per week) and those attending will naturally be expected to be punctual and stay the course. The scheme is open to potential employees across a range of ages, including the important 18-to-24 age group, and those participating will receive travel expenses and PPE footwear where appropriate.

The road haulage operator concerned will be encouraged to get them to do whatever they could reasonably be asked to do, from a daily walk-round check of the vehicle onwards, and to engage with the candidates to illustrate what is expected of someone choosing professional driving as a career. Nights out etc. are unlikely to be suitable but the course generally is intended to give individuals a fair picture of the industry.

Similarly of course the operator will have an ideal opportunity to identify suitable staff members. It may be that a driving post might not be immediately available but there may be room in the organisation in another logistics related role. An added bonus for companies which use the scheme comes from the positive publicity such undertakings initiate and both the RHA and JCP have confirmed their support in helping participating companies in achieving this.

The RHA says that this initiative with JCP has keen ministerial interest within the DWP and the Department for Transport and Driving Britain Forward is gaining wider recognition within parliament. It got a very positive mention in the budget debate in the House of Commons on July 14th from Seema Malhotra, Labour MP for Feltham & Heston.

The project will doubtless help JCP staff to understand the demands and rewards of a career in logistics, so often the anonymous, forgotten man in the world of employment.

RHA members who feel they might benefit from trialling the scheme can contact their area manager. Alternatively, information is available from Steve Ellis, who is project managing the scheme nationally, on s.ellis@rha.net