A number of waste and recycling companies are putting measures in place to tackle a reported national shortage of qualified drivers.
The shortage has been attributed to a number of factors including the demands of the job and the strict requirements around licensing for drivers. Concerns have also been raised of the availability of drivers post-Brexit.
Earlier this month, Scottish waste management firm, NWH Group, launched a ‘Driver Academy’ in a bid to overcome the ‘industry-wide shortage’ of Class 2 HGV drivers.
Mark Williams, managing director at NWH Group, said: “The rising cost of the licence and the difficulty faced in finding work as a newly qualified driver, means businesses the length and breadth of the country are faced with the challenge of a driver shortage which is preventing services from being delivered.
“Insurance companies often do not allow companies to recruit new drivers due to risk, so we are working together to help overcome this major issue.”
According to NWH, the purpose of the Academy is to enable it to recruit and train new HGV drivers by pairing them with an experienced mentor who will assist in their professional development and ensure that they are driving at industry standard before being allowed to drive solo.
When contacted by letsrecycle.com, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) confirmed that driver shortage has been an ongoing concern for the last 15 years.
James Hookham, deputy chief executive of the FTA said: “It’s a big problem and it’s not going away.
“There’s several factors, it’s quite demanding work, it’s not a cosy office job. It also demands a lot of energy and attention. You can’t just do a course. You need a licence and training, and it’s quite expensive. So you can’t just walk out of a job and become a driver – it’s quite tough to get in to.”
“Our response to this has involved upskilling our loaders to assist them in obtaining their HGV licences and to investigate the opportunities of the apprenticeship levy in order to attract younger people into the business.”
Mark A Woods
The deputy chief executive also explained that there is a low number of women joining the field, which is thought to be for a number of reasons, including lack of roadside facilities, which he said local authorities need to do more to provide. Mr Hookham also outlined the need to appeal to a younger generation.
In terms of the future, Mr Hookham said: “13% of drivers are EU nationals, which is around 30,000 drivers. Currently we are 35,000 short, which could easily double if EU nationals aren’t allowed to work here after Brexit.
“We’ve got several areas we’re working on such as raising the profile nationally. We’re trying to encourage young people, as well as unemployed people at the Job Centre Plus, but at the moment there is low unemployment. Military leavers are another group we are trying to target.
“We’re also trying to persuade people who have reached a point in their career that it’s a good job to do. It can be a very rewarding and well paid job, and there are a number of very good employers. You also get to see a lot of the countryside.”
Mr Hookham said the consequences are that wages have increased and it is going to become more expensive to pay drivers. “Businesses will have to realise it is a demanding job and we need to recognise that in what we pay them.”
“It is bad at the moment but not as bad as it was two years ago. We were 60,000 drivers short at that time and now we’re 35,000.”
Viridor’s sales and collections director Mark A Woods was in agreement with the FTA that the driver shortage is a challenge. However, Mr Woods said he is confident that the company has ‘effective measures’ in place to meet the requirements of the business.
Mr Woods explained this involves a ‘two-pronged approach’ of investing in the skills development of Viridor’s workforce to address the current demand, and creating opportunities to plan for future growth.
He said: “Our response to this has involved upskilling our loaders to assist them in obtaining their HGV licences and to investigate the opportunities of the apprenticeship levy in order to attract younger people into the business.”
Recycling and waste management firm Suez confirmed that the company was also working to overcome the issues caused by the shortage.
Kevan Sproul, HR director at Suez, said: “I think it is fair to say that there was a fear that the Brexit vote would lead to an immediate shortage of drivers as those drivers already over here from Europe would return home and the flow of new drivers coming here would stop. This did not happen overnight as feared but it can now be felt on an increasing scale.
“Every company needs to plan how this can be overcome by the training and development of current employees rather than just driving business costs up by competing against each other on pay levels. This is potentially a long term issue that needs a long term solution.”
Source: letsrecycle.com Waste Managment