Pallet-Track network members are among supply chain businesses leading the industry charge to train the logistics sector out of the chronic skills shortage, to drive up quality and efficiency and drive down margin-eroding costs.
At a time that Skills for Logistics is calling for more apprenticeships, Pallet-Track members have been innovative in their approaches to curbing the driving skills shortage, calculated to be in the region of 50,000, according to RHA figures.
For example, Robert Wilcox, managing director of Massey Wilcox near Bath, has called on the government to introduce a loan scheme like that available for students to get drivers through their vocational training and into paid employment.
Robert, who has also formed a partnership with a training provider to deliver best practice driving skills, said: “The government has £1.4 million - and growing - of our industry’s money collected via the apprenticeship levy, so there is really no risk to Government funds should the candidate not pay it back, as opposed to businesses like ours where there is a real risk.”
So committed to the cause are many of the network’s 86 members that they have either created or acquired driver and Fork Lift Truck (FLT) training companies to guarantee that only high-level candidates are behind the wheel and acting as ambassadors for their brands.
PGS Global Logistics, based in Birmingham, is one such company. It acquired A1 Training Services Ltd to provide ‘warehouse to wheels’ tuition that goes beyond producing Class 1 or 2 licence holders.
“We need the right people in place to drive for us and while a lot of companies have their own training schools, they can often stop short of helping them progress with much-needed experience,” said Sam Eyles, director of business development at PGS Global Logistics.
“The trouble is without that experience they get overlooked by companies so they never improve. We insist on putting them in cabs with experienced drivers to coach them on the road and expose them to real life driving rather than simply getting them through the tests.
“This has been the real benefit of having a partnership with A1 Training as we get not only the right drivers, but also all the right qualities including attitude, and aptitude before we send them out driving for PGS.”
Collin Meredith, managing director of A1 Training, said: “Going out on the road for an intensive week-long immersion in the job is invaluable training to get drivers to the next stage.
“We are in an industry where we have a skills shortage, but unless you have that experience no one wants to employ you. Insurance cover for inexperienced drivers can be expensive and hard to obtain, but our mentoring regime gives insurers more confidence in new drivers.
“Our training is not only about driving, it is about teaching drivers how to present themselves and how to make sure that their load is secure, for example. These are important details of the job that you are not going to get from taking a test.”
Kent-based Alan Firmin Ltd also has its own training school offering a range of classroom-based e-learning modules through to CPC and FORS coaching, as well as also having a recruitment agency on site.
Lindsey Clarke at Firmin said: “The industry sees a lot of churn and we, like other businesses, have to manage that as more people are leaving the industry than joining. We are very careful to recruit the right candidates and ensure they meet, and are trained to, the high standards that we set ourselves and that includes vetting our temporary drivers as well.
“We are not just about assessment, but really more about driver development, so we attract and bring on the right talent for our business.”
Nigel Parkes, founder and managing director of Pallet-Track, said: “Our members are at the sharp end of the impact of the skills shortage and their approaches are both considered and practical solutions to the predicament the industry finds itself. We all need and expect goods to be delivered 24/7, but without skilled and accredited drivers there is a credibility and reputational gap to bridge in terms of building confidence with customers and the general public.”