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Tackling the driver shortage

driver training

According to Simply Waste, there is currently a shortage of 52,000 large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers (those who hold a category C or C+E licence), which is an increase of 49% on the year before. The number of LGV drivers has reduced by 4% year-on-year, which can be attributed to the demographics of the LGV workforce: a large proportion are aged 45 and over (63%) with the average currently 48.3. A large number are also over 60 years.

Simply Waste explains the shortage through the large number of people who have and will continue to retire, as well as the low percentage of professional drivers under the age of 25 (only 2%). In addition, there has been a failure to retain younger drivers who had flocked to the industry in 2016 with the rise in the Trailblazer apprenticeship scheme.

There are fears that the current driver shortage figures could be compounded further post-Brexit if rights for EU workers change.

Simply Waste addressed the issue by investing in its current workforce to maintain its “already excellent employee retention rates”, and has focused on enticing new recruits into the ‘Simply Family’.

Almost two years ago, chief executive James Capel and his team set out their strategy to create a dedicated Training Academy and recruited training manager Kevin Barcroft to lead it. The approach is to empower the workforce and create a dedicated recruitment and induction function with an on-going ‘stairway’ approach to training.

As a result, the business says its workforce feels more engaged with areas such as safety, legal compliance, environmental and first aid issues.

Simply Waste says it routinely has a waiting list of drivers wanting to join the company.

Training Academy remit and some of its successes

  • Deliver in-house sessions for driver Certificate of Professional Competence.
  • Train existing LGV drivers to improve:
    • Work-related road risk.
    • Accident statistics which, as a consequence, has reduced accidents by 47%.
    • Due to above success, insurance premiums have reduced.
    • Fuel-efficiency: despite massively increased productivity, fuel use has been reduced by 18% due to better vehicle operation.
    • Legal compliance: reduced infringement rates leading to a green OCRS score.
    • Introduced a Driver of the Year competition: the winner entered the FTA 2017 Driver of the Year competition and came third in the 18-tonne category.
  • Working with third-party training provider SkillCert to become a sector-based work academy (ongoing).
  • Collaborating with JobCentrePlus to bring in new staff to train as waste operatives.
  • Upskilling existing operatives to van drivers.
  • Training existing van drivers to become LGV drivers; currently two employees, with three more shortly to be fully qualified.

Other staff engagement initiatives

  • To celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary last year, all office staff were taken to either Rome or Barcelona for a weekend as a reward for their hard work.
  • It has its own annual Drivers’ Awards to recognise and reward its drivers for exceptional work.
  • It introduced Aduno (Latin for ‘unite’), an intranet system built and delivered internally, to improve communication and give employees a platform to be heard.
  • Its employee of the month scheme is still going strong (two awards per month for best driver/loader and best office/sales staff members).
  • Last year, it took members of staff to Brussels to celebrate the business being included in the London Stock Exchange’s 1000 companies to inspire Europe report.
  • Last year the business held its first annual Family Day, an outdoor event with BBQ, bouncy castle, face painting and so on, to which all staff were invited.

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