Lack of skilled lift truck instructors poses possible safety risks


The warehousing and logistics industry is facing a shortage of qualified Lift Truck Instructors which could lead to safety issues in forklift operations, says RTITB.

“The lack of lift truck operators and warehouse staff is a frequently discussed problem. However, many in the industry are overlooking the significant Instructor skills shortage,” says Laura Nelson, Managing Director for RTITB, accrediting body for workplace transport training. “These two issues are connected. Without enough dedicated, qualified Instructors it will be impossible to fill the skills gap.”

In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, 50% fewer Lift Truck Instructor examinations took place compared to the previous year, creating a shortage of Instructors that the industry is still recovering from.

Later, as Covid-19 restrictions around training eased, a backlog of lift truck operator training had to be addressed. The need to train operators remains high, with 9365 ‘Forklift Operator’ roles currently advertised* by organisations looking to fill these positions in May 2022.

With fewer Instructors qualifying, there have been longer waits for operator training. One national logistics provider informed RTITB that current waiting times for training are approximately 10-12 weeks in certain areas for popular machine types. Instructor courses at the same company currently have a lead time of up to 5 weeks. It is clear that the Instructor shortage is still preventing roles from being filled as quickly as needed.

“Without a skilled Instructor available, there is always a risk that businesses will just ‘show the ropes’ to trainee operators. This does not prove compliance in the event of an incident. More importantly, it does not pass on the required skills and safety standards,” says Laura. “Even a highly experienced forklift operator may be sharing years of bad habits with a novice operator or could just be a terrible teacher!”

“There is no substitute for practical training delivered by qualified Instructors. However, we can’t fill every Instructor vacancy overnight – solving the skills shortage will take time,” says Laura. “What we can do now to help ensure safety is to use Instructors’ time more wisely. One way is by harnessing the power of eLearning to accelerate the rate at which lift truck operators can be trained.”

eTruck UK, available in the UK exclusively from RTITB, is an eLearning program providing the theory element of forklift and reach truck operator training. With eTruck, it is estimated that Instructors can reduce contact training hours by 40%. The online platform enables operators to train independently online. This frees up Instructors’ time to deliver more of the practical training necessary to complete operator training.

For example, without eTruck, an Instructor can train six novice counterbalance or reach truck operators in a two-week period. By using eTruck to deliver the theory element of the course, they can train up to nine novice candidates and three refresher or conversion candidates.

eTruck reduces training time by two days per novice course. If adopted across the UK warehousing and logistics industry, it would result in a nationwide saving of an estimated 40,000 training days per year.

“Digitalising training is an effective way to help close the skills gap faster despite facing an Instructor skills shortage. It has huge cost-saving potential, especially when considering the possible reduction in working days lost to training,” says Laura. “With online learning becoming the norm, especially for younger people, eLearning will also play a vital role in engaging trainees, helping to retain new talent for the future of the industry.”

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