Brakes has been shortlisted at the Motor Transport Awards for its Changing Gears programme, which was introduced to provide a long-term, sustainable solution to the HGV Driver shortage.
The programme was already in development when the HGV driver shortage hit the headlines as Debbie Spear, Changing Gears programme manager, explains: “The shortage of HGV drivers isn’t new, it’s been around for many years, which is why we already had our own programmes to recruit, train and retain the best talent in the industry. However, the pandemic and Brexit accelerated the impact on the sector and we launched our new initiative, ‘Changing Gears’.”
Read more: Brakes to trial electrical vehicles
Well-meaning, but ultimately counterproductive Government measures to address the shortage, for example with changes to driver apprenticeships, meant that foodservice businesses that generally operate using vehicles which require a Class 2 HGV licence, felt increased pressure.
Debbie continues: “Changing Gears is a great example of industry not waiting for the Government to deal with the shortage, but acting to create our own bespoke solutions. It’s about identifying driving talent and giving them really strong support to not only pass their HGV test, but also become great drivers. It allows current and new colleagues to take on driving roles, with their training and testing funded by Brakes. It’s not just about passing the test, it’s about supporting the professional development of the drivers of the future.”
Currently the programme has a 100% pass rate, with a 96% retention rate. And such is the success of the programme that a waiting list is now in operation. Debbie said: “We hold our drivers’ hands through the entire process making it easy for them succeed. Because there are no barriers to joining Changing Gears, other than having a driving licence, it also helps us with the diversification of our workforce and it’s pleasing that a female was one of the very first graduates from the scheme.”