‘It seems impenetrable’: the hardships of heavyweight training | Supply chain crisis

The UK’s shortage of truck drivers and reports of salaries of up to £ 50,000 have prompted some people to change careers and retrain to join the industry.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that there is now a shortage of over 100,000 qualified truck drivers in the UK.

Three people wishing to join the sector talk about their experiences so far.

“I like the idea of ​​a policy without an office”

Stephen Caen, 59, of Hinckley, Leicestershire, left his IT leadership role after 40 years. He says the freedom to be on the road and the lack of politics in the office prompted him to retrain as a truck driver.

Stephen Caen says he enjoys driving and wanted to change careers. Photography: Stephen Caen

“I love to drive cars and vans,” he says. “I’ve always liked solitude, so I thought why not do it because I don’t want to get back into senior management politics. I used to work 80 to 90 hours a week, so a 50 hour week driving should be a snap.

Although Caen paid a training agency to organize the application process, he says it took a lot longer than he expected – almost six months, double the time it initially had. announcement.

“It’s pretty complicated,” he says. “I think a lot of people will have a hard time and might be put off because of this.”

He is currently waiting to be registered for his training and driving test, adding that the delays between each step of the training “kill” him.

Caen also believes the government should take steps to encourage companies to hire new drivers, as most require six months to two years of experience.

“The government should motivate and incentivize businesses,” he says. “In the past, with other industries, for example, a company would get £ 1,000 for every person they hired who stayed six months. It could be something like that.

“I keep wondering if it’s really worth it”

Sarah, 44, an artist and university technician from Manchester, dreamed of being a truck driver as a child, inspired by long road trips across Europe with her father, a salesman, and her love of Long Distance Clara from the 1980s children’s television show Pigeon Street.

She never achieved her dream due to concerns about working in such a male-dominated industry. But the shortage of truck drivers pushed her to revisit it, in the hopes that the higher pay and shift work would also support her better as an artist.

“When I was 28, after a career in administration and business and then about five years working for the NHS, I became an artist,” she says. “An unconventional life was what I wanted and I didn’t want to work nine to five anymore. I have a gallery in London and I just had an exhibition. The idea of ​​becoming a truck driver for four days, four days off is great. It would give me a lot of time to practice my artistic work.

But Sarah says the bureaucracy involved in getting a truck license makes her wonder if she’ll be able to reach her goal. “It seems like an impenetrable industry. I have successfully obtained my provisional license and now need to start preparing for my knowledge test. However, the DVSA [Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency] the commercial vehicle driving theory review book is out of print.

While she hopes sales from her recent art show will help offset the costs, she is also worried about the financial blow it entails. “It’s going to cost me around £ 3,000 to complete the training. It’s a real minefield with training companies. How do you know which ones are famous? I feel very lonely and constantly wonder if this is really worth it.

“The high price of training is the kicker for me”

For Craig, 37, a customer service administrator from Southend-on-Sea, working from home during the pandemic finally convinced him to retrain as a heavy truck driver.

He says, “I’ve always had a desk job and work from home recently, over the past year or so, I think that got me thinking about a change. I can’t sit inside anymore.

“I have done some driving jobs in the past and it was extremely enjoyable. I was also drawn to the idea of ​​making a little more money and when I heard about the shortage of truck drivers, I decided to get back to driving in a more professional way.

Craig expects to continue his plans until November 15, when the government’s rule changes for learning to drive a heavy truck will be announced.

But he adds that the cost of training and the fact that transport companies seem unwilling to take the risk of hiring newly graduated drivers worries him.

“The price is the kicker. There are other costs as well and when you factor that in it will add up to around £ 3,000.

“The problem you have is that even if you pass your test, you then go into these companies, and they all say, well, we need six months to two years of experience.”

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