A new not-for-profit organisation called Road to Logistics has been formed with the aim of addressing the professional driver shortfall by encouraging companies to hire ex-services personnel and ex-offenders.
The organisation, launched yesterday at the Microlise Transport Conference, is a collaboration between Bob Harbey, executive director of Microlise, and Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA).
Additional support will be provided by Care after Combat, the charity chaired by Jim Davidson OBE.
Road to Logistics will seek to give veterans and reformed offenders the opportunity of a secure long term career in transport and logistics.
Individuals will go through a programme of activity that ends with them securing qualifications such as HGV licences, to enable them to begin a career in the transport and logistics industry.
The initial cohort of five drivers has already begun training in the programme.
“We have an objective to have 30 to 50 drivers through the programme by Christmas," said Harbey, who is also chief executive of Road to Logistics.
"We want to walk before we run and ensure that the programme is nationally scalable.
“The aim is to gather evidence during the pilot phase to show the exchequer that there is a net gain to the economy by running this programme.
"We then hope to secure further funding to increase the numbers of new professional drivers being created."
Road to Logistics is working with services charity Care after Combat and the prison service to identify potential recruits for the programme.
Following interviews and employability assessment, the organisation will fund and support new recruits through professional licence training before placing them in an appropriate job.
“Our aim to provide professional assistance where possible for the well-being of veterans and their families,” said Davidson.
“By providing secure long-term skilled employment in the transport industry we are achieving many of our goals while at the same time providing a new source of talent for the industry.
"We think it will be a win-win situation.”
Major hauliers have already begun to allocate vacancies and will accept the first new drivers to complete the programme.
DAF Trucks dealership Ford & Slater is providing vehicles for use in the training programme.
Burnett, who is also chairman of the newly-formed, organisation, is hopeful that Road to Logistics will be a force for good on a large scale.
“Right now, the road transport and logistics industry is facing a massive driver shortage – currently standing at 45,000.
"If we can help address the issue and at the same time support those in society who may need a helping hand on to the employment ladder, then it is an opportunity that must be taken.”
Road to Logistics will operate within the Microlise Group for financial stability and an initial investment of £100,000 has been made by the company to fund the pilot phase.