As the UK continues battling a shortage of HGV drivers, the first intensive courses aimed at helping more people become lorry drivers have begun.
The courses are part of the government’s ‘Skills Bootcamp’ programme which will support employment in the economy’s key areas.
At the peak of the driver crisis in the summer, it was estimated by the haulage industry that the sector was short of 100,000 drivers.
That was down to the 2020 Covid pandemic lockdown, growing numbers of drivers leaving the sector and post-Brexit rules that prevented drivers from the European Union returning to work as drivers.
The country is now short of 80,000 drivers
The Road Haulage Association has recently indicated that the country is now short of 80,000 drivers and says the publicity about fast-rising wages and a greater lorry driver testing capacity have helped recruitment.
Also, growing numbers of firms offering sign-on bonuses, while other employers offering retention bonuses have helped to make the sector industry more attractive.
Now the HGV driving skills bootcamp is a part of the scheme to help develop skills in those areas with high employment demand.
The schemes will offer a free course of 16 weeks for anyone aged over 19 in sectors including construction and the digital economy.
There’s also a fast-tracked interview guaranteed with a local employer as part of the scheme.
£34 million for potential HGV drivers
The government is spending £34 million for potential HGV drivers – and those wanting to improve their lorry driving skills – by expanding the initial 5,000 places, to 11,000 places.
So far, at least 2,000 potential HGV drivers have registered an interest via JobCentres and the National Careers Service, and the first course is now underway in Croydon.
The Skills Bootcamp website is to publish a national list of course locations for others to sign up.
The government says that the boot camps are a pathway for those wanting to take the specialist driving tests to become a haulage driver.
Graduates will be behind the wheel from March
The schemes are being run by the Department for Education who say the first graduates from their schemes will be behind the wheel from March – helped by improving driving test capacity of more than 500 tests every week.
The government also says it is committed to tackling poor facilities on the country’s road network drivers to make the job more attractive to recruits.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said: “The government has worked tirelessly to tackle the driver shortage caused by coronavirus and years of undervalued wages.
“We have now introduced 32 actions to help get more HGV drivers on the road. It is good to see that these measures are clearly working, with the haulage industry reporting a significant increase in tests carried out and licenses issued.”
He added: “Now these training camps will provide a further boost for the sector as we work together towards its recovery.”