An experienced former tour guide has become ELB Partners’ first trainee under its new driver apprenticeship scheme, an initiative to help reduce the UK’s crippling driver shortage.
The Wimbledon-based business, which secured FORS Gold accreditation for a record seventh time this year, is putting 45-year-old Philip Bennett through its 12-month programme in response to the driver crisis, which has contributed to vital raw material shortages and empty supermarket shelves.
ELB, part of the Pallet-Track network, is joining fellow network member Translink Express Logistics in funding its own programme to take drivers such as Philip through his Class 1 and 2 HGV driver training and CPC over the next 12 months.
Philip, who lost his job when Covid-19 shut down the tour guide sector, said: “I have always loved driving and physical work. I am really enjoying the variety of van deliveries around central London, an area I know well from my days driving coaches.”
“I’ve always wanted to drive larger lorries and it’s great that a company like ELB is now putting me through the necessary training. You never stop learning and this will be another string to my bow, as well as provide me with more great experience,” added Philip, who has driven every passenger vehicle from vintage buses to modern double-deckers in a career spanning 25 years.
Dan Philpot, commercial director at ELB, said: “The situation has become very serious for many businesses, which is why we have decided to invest in our own apprenticeship scheme.
“For business like ours with plenty of work, if we can train drivers in Class 1 and 2 and get them through their CPC, we can encourage more people like Philip into a new career pathway that will help boost the industry, as well as small to medium-sized haulage businesses such as ours.”
According to the RHA, the national driver deficit is between 70,000 and 100,000. In response, the government has unveiled an industry consultation in an attempt to accelerate recruitment.
Caroline Green, CEO of Pallet-Track, who has asked all of the network’s 87 members to lobby their MPs over the driver shortage, said: “The government’s June announcement of accelerating HGV test rates is good news.
“However, with an estimated HGV driver shortage of up to 100,000 and an average driver age of 55 linked to a high level of annual retirements, even if we could attract enough trainee drivers, it would still take a long time to address the shortage.
“While we do need to support long term actions like this, we need short term solutions now – the whole nation is waking up to the impact of our driver crisis.
“We need HGV drivers added to the shortage occupation list so we can attempt to attract drivers back from the EU, and adding a seasonal or periodic visa scheme would also help.
“These actions would act as sticking plasters while we develop the robust medium and long-term solutions we need to attract, train and retain drivers.”