HGV drivers are the backbone of any logistics network: without a driver, goods will not move from A to B. In today’s world of fast-moving supply chains, where just-in-time is vital when it comes to on-shelf availability in retail and the efficient movement of materials into construction sites, any impact on the driver being able to get behind the wheel will have a serious impact on continuity of service.
However, in recent years, the UK has suffered from a shortage of HGVs drivers. According to the Logistics UK Skills and Employment Report 2020, there are over 300,000 HGV drivers in the UK but this, says the association, means there is a shortfall of some 79,000 HGV drivers required to meet demand.
Drivers are also getting older (the average age is 49.6) and for many retirement may be in their thoughts. (14.5% are 60 and above). Replacing this cohort in the next five years is crucial to meeting the need to move goods.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, quite rightly, saw a postponement of 28,000 HGV driver tests, alongside delays to medical examinations, for those seeking C and C + E category licences. Simply, this means that fewer new drivers can start work right now as the backlog needs to be cleared.
Recent changes to immigration processes have tested the sectors’ reliance on labour from the European Union (which now stands at 12.4% of all HGV drivers in the UK according to Logistics UK). With the Government not currently prioritising HGV drivers with their immigration approach, the priority for employers is to recruit a domestic workforce to meet demand.
Finally, in order to ensure UK businesses benefit from a skilled workforce, the Government launched the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017 to provide employees with access to funding to train apprentices - including HGV drivers.
Great people deliver
Wincanton defines itself as ‘great people delivering sustainable supply chain value’ and in ensuring we have ‘great people delivering’ behind the wheel of an HGV, we have developed a strong foundation to recruit and retain skilled drivers.
The desire among people in the UK to work as an HGV driver is there; especially, but not exclusively, among younger people who have previously been accused of being uninterested in such work.
Wincanton has 200 apprenticeship places to fill this financial year, and recent recruitment activity attracted 1,900 applicants. In the north-west of England, a cohort of 15 apprenticeship spaces alone attracted 400 applications over one weekend.
Our adjusted apprenticeship programme can remove the cost barriers for those looking to train and obtain a licence, but the Government needs to work harder to ensure that Apprenticeship Levy funding delivers skilled workers – in this case HGV drivers - in an area of the labour force where there is a stark need.
Wincanton is also breaking down barriers in its own business to ensure existing staff can transition their careers. We have piloted a fast-track ‘Drivers of the Future scheme at sites for customers Ikea and B&Q, condensing the practical and theoretical training required to become an HGV driver into one programme.
Breaking down barriers
This year 55 colleagues in Wincanton warehouses will go through the programme, meaning that by March 2022 we will have put 255 brand new Class 1 C+E drivers into our network.
The number of female applicants across the internal fast-track programme and apprenticeships is well above the industry average, and Wincanton will look to work collaboratively with the recruitment industry on a female licence acquisition programme.
Later this year Wincanton will commence more targeted campaigns looking at diversifying from the norm as an HGV driver – drawing on the successes of colleagues like Hollie Ridley, winner of The Freight Award – ‘Above and Beyond’ category at the 2020 Amazon Everywoman in Transport & Logistics Awards and Transport Team Leader in the Wincanton for Wilko team.
As Wincanton tackles the challenges of recruiting drivers head on, it is breaking the mould when it comes to recruitment, demonstrating the flexibility and inclusivity a career as an HGV driver can offer to people from all walks of life.
Sally Austin, Chief People Officer at Wincanton says:
“Breaking down the barriers and creating more opportunities for our current and future colleagues is fundamental to making Wincanton a great place to work. I’m excited by the launch of our new programmes and I look forward to seeing the continued growth in our driver population”