The UK Government has invested £34.5m in ‘skills bootcamps’ to tackle the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers.
The highest in the last eight years combined, the funding will help companies train around 11,000 new drivers, as the cost amounts to around £4,000 for each, the Financial Times reported.
“This money is incredibly welcome,” Sally Gilson, policy manager for skills at the Road Haulage Association, told the paper. “Our sector works to wafer-thin margins, with 80 per cent of our membership having 15 trucks or less. They don’t have £4,000 per person to spend on training.”
According to Logistics UK’s Rona Hunnisett, the £34.5m will also help attract a new generation of workers. “This is a good way to raise awareness of the sector and a great opportunity to show there are good, meaningful jobs with good wages on offer,” she told the Financial Times.
Running until the end of November, the ‘skills bootcamps’ will rely on different teaching formats. Easy As HGV, one of the UK’s largest HGV training companies, has launched a virtual reality (VR) training programme to help drivers get on the road faster.
“It’s no secret that the HGV sector is in crisis. We desperately need to train up more drivers – and fast,” said Easy As HGV’s managing director Tom McGhie.
“This VR training is going to be invaluable as it will enable candidates to revise and practice the skills they learn in our training course before they take their test. It’s far more effective than having them read a textbook or watch a standard, non-interactive video.”
Driver shortages have plagued the industry for the last two years, with the number of qualified HGV drivers going down 23.4 per cent, from 308,000 in the second quarter of 2019 to 236,000 in 2021.
According to Logistics UK’s 2021 report, Brexit and the lack of drivers were among the main barriers to business recovery, representing respectively 67.9 and 57.3 per cent.
Skills shortages in the logistics sector don’t involve only HGV drivers, but affect all parts of the supply chain.
“When we tried to recruit for these roles, we really struggled as there is simply not the experience in the market to meet the current demand and the salaries for such roles are currently highly inflated,” Nick McCullough, managing director of MANFREIGHT Limited, told City A.M.
“The current systems only allow a small amount of automation, and the accuracy of data input needs to be 100 per cent. Otherwise, we can face significant delays or fines in the movement of goods.”