Fast-track driver scheme to beat trucker shortage

Wednesday 17th November 2021 1:02 pm
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From left, Harlech Foodservice trainee HGV driver Rhys Burgess with transport supervisor Morgan Jones and operations manager Ian Evans (Pic: Mandy Jones Photography) ()

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A food distribution company is fast-tracking drivers through their HGV tests to beat delivery shortages caused by the pandemic and Brexit.

Harlech Foodservice has seven drivers at their depots in Criccieth on course to complete their HGV Class C tests this January.

It will take their total number of Class C drivers up to 38 from 31 and will mean they are fully staffed for spring when demand from hospitality and tourism starts to step up again.

Transport supervisor Morgan Jones, who joined the company four years ago as a driver and completed the training course himself said: “It’s something we have been doing for a few years but we’ve stepped it up.

“This is the first time we have done this mass training to ensure we have enough delivery drivers to meet customers’ needs.

“We had six new van drivers this year and they had all done a great job this summer and they have accepted our offer for them to be trained as HGV drivers by Caernarfon company Carmel Training.

“There is a cost which Harlech cover and it includes the necessary eyesight and medical checks as well as two theory and two practical tests after an intensive three-day course.

“The cost is about £1,500 each but we reimburse that and in return they sign a form committing themselves to the company, which they have been happy to do.”

Among the intake is 23-year-old Rhys Burgess from Porthmadog, who joined Harlech in June as a van driver and has been enrolled on the HGV course.

He said the course is “a great opportunity for me and something I’ve always wanted to do”.

“It’s not really about the money. It’s about a good opportunity to make more of myself.

“It’s an opportunity to move up the ladder and the firm are paying for it which is big help because it’s not cheap and for them to do that is really good.

“It’s about upskilling staff and while I’m enjoying driving the vans, I’m really looking forward to getting on the lorries.”

Rhys joined Harlech after his job as a kitchen porter at a hotel fell victim to lockdown.

“I really needed the work and there aren’t a lot of jobs around here.

“For Harlech to help local people rather than bring in drivers is really great.”

The Class C licence allows the drivers to take the wheel of any vehicle up to 32 tonnes which isn’t articulated, and covers most of Harlech’s fleet of 35 lorries.

Harlech managing director David Cattrall said: “We have always had a policy of recruiting from within whenever and wherever possible and that’s been true of our van drivers.

“The current situation in the transport sector makes this more important than ever and we believe it is better if we can train existing staff to fill gaps rather than getting into a recruiting war.

“In response we ask them to stay with the business for two years after they qualify, and we look forward to them working for us for many years into the future.

“We know the worth of our own people and we value their loyalty and believe it is better to offer them a career path through training which at the same time enables us to ensure we can continue to provide customers with the deliveries they need when they need them.”

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