A number of training schemes have been launched across the waste management industry in an attempt to tackle the shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.
The lack of drivers is a long-running issue and has caused problems for waste companies – many are having to pay drivers more and using agency drivers to supplement the permanent workforce.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) anticipate that 15% of their current HGV driver vacancies will not be filled due to the nationwide skills shortage, according to a survey of 500 freight and logistics businesses operating in the UK and internationally.
Sally Gilson, head of skills at the FTA, said: “An ageing workforce, competition for skilled staff, and shifting migration patterns – in part in response to Brexit – mean we are facing serious challenges in the recruitment and retention of labour for key logistics roles.
“After all, the average age of a HGV driver is 48 years, as found in the survey, and 13 per cent of HGV drivers working in the UK are EU nationals; their continued residency is not guaranteed post-Brexit.”
This October the FTA will be holding a one day Labour Shortages Conference which hopes to teach attendees how to engage with different communities to recruit more driving staff. Ms Gilson explained: “FTA’s Labour Shortages Conference will arm companies with the practical knowledge and tools they need to face these challenges head on.”
This push comes alongside in-house training programmes at both private waste management companies and local authorities which are trying to reach out to potential new drivers and help overcome the high costs usually faced by those looking to take on a HGV career.
Edinburgh-based NWH Group is one of the waste management companies which has created a recruitment programme. It launched a ‘Driver Academy’ in 2017 in an effort to recruit more Class 2 HGV drivers.
Two years later Rhys Donaldson – a HR and recruitment consultant at NWH Group who co-ordinates the Driver Academy – says the project has gone “from strength to strength”.
He said: “Whilst there is still most definitely an industry-wide driver shortage, the Academy ensures that our new recruits are trained to meet the standards that NWH sets in driving behaviour, compliance, safety and customer service which are all closely linked to our company values.
“Our way of training ensures that drivers are as well prepared as possible for this, as well as ensuring they have a strong understanding of the administrative and commercial side of our business.”
Viridor is another organisation which has set up its own opportunities for those looking to become drivers.
“Viridor has responded to this shortage by investing in a driver apprenticeship programme to bring more drivers into the business,” said Derek Edwards, managing director of fleet and logistics at Viridor.
“The company has also rolled out a training programme to offer opportunities to existing Viridor loaders to upgrade their skills to become HGV drivers.”
But despite these initiatives, Mr Edwards noted that agency drivers were still being used within the business.
A number of local authorities have also reported issues with recruiting HGV drivers – also known as LGV drivers – including workers for waste services.
Aberdeen city council says it has faced “significant challenges” with recruiting and retaining driving staff for its waste and recycling services.
An Aberdeen City Council spokesperson explained: “This has resulted in a high level of agency use however, as a result of a concerted effort to resolve this issue by implementing initiatives such as increased and more creative advertising and in-house training, the number of vacancies is currently reduced to an acceptable and manageable level.
“It is fair to say that local authorities continue to face difficulties with recruiting LGV drivers in what is a very competitive environment and recognises that there is an ongoing requirement to actively work to recruit and retain drivers.”
Other councils which have reported shortages of drivers include Perth and Kinross, Lincolnshire and Brighton and Hove.