One of Europa Worldwide's fleet of HGV vehicles

Europa Road has launched a driver academy to develop a new intake of HGV drivers to its team and help alleviate growing pressures on supply chains.

Europa Road, the European road freight division of leading-edge logistics provider, Europa Worldwide Group  has created the initiative as part of a determined effort to take positive action to address the worsening shortage of UK HGV drivers.

Known as Europa School of Wheels, the training academy is based at Europa’s industry leading 1Hub groupage facility in Dartford, Kent and has already attracted its first wave of recruits.

Industry body, the Road Haulage Association estimates that there is a shortfall of 100,000 HGV drivers now, against its pre-Covid estimate of 60,000. Furthermore, lobby groups for the retail and transport industries have jointly written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng warning the impact on supply chains is getting worse.

They want a review of plans not to grant temporary work visas to drivers from the EU as well as better training.

Dan Cook, Operations Director at Europa Worldwide Group, said: “The Covid pandemic, Brexit and the IR35 rules have accelerated an existing problem. My own view is we have a major timebomb ticking here, and if we are not careful there will be a serious problem for UK distribution in the coming months, let alone years. So far, many companies have been forced to simply increase wages. It is what we have done because we cannot afford to be without drivers. It is also correct because this is a skilled and responsible job and should be identified as such. But I recognise we are contributing to the industry problem, not fixing it. The fix is to ‘create’ new drivers.

“So, we are investing in inhouse training with a target to take 10 ‘non drivers’ through a program to create 10 new extra drivers, hopefully over the next 6-9 months. An expensive but necessary investment, and one that participates in resolving the problem.

“Our new training initiative will be developed with a leading provider to train and create additional HGV Class 2 drivers from scratch, with an intention to further upskill to Class 1. This is an opportunity for enthusiastic and committed people to enrol on a course that will lead to a rewarding, long-term career.

“We will nurture every single successful applicant so that they feel part of the Europa family and are as committed as we are to driving the future growth of our business.”

Europa Road employs around 45 drivers based in Dartford, comprising both class 1 (artic) and class 2 (rigid), all of whom operate within the UK.

Malcolm Castle, General Manager – Domestic Transport, Europa Road, said: “All the candidates that are successful in getting into the Europa School of Wheels show the right attitude and some have already started on the path to become an HGV driver.

“They are all passionate about wanting to gain the appropriate vocational licence to get trained to a professional level. Each of the candidates shows different levels of all the elements that make up a driver, as being able to drive a truck is only part of the job.  We held an open day recently to take the potential candidates through their paces.”

Malcolm added: “Our most experienced candidate is currently a bus driver, but one has no experience at all. Every candidate mentioned that they like the fact that we are offering people with little or no experience the opportunity to progress through a driving career.”

Vanita Dass-Puri, Head of Recruitment at Europa Worldwide, said: “We were delighted with the level interest and received over 300 applications. It was an intense selection process and fantastic for our industry to see so many people interested in this opportunity. Our School of Wheels driver training academy offers candidates the chance to start their careers as drivers and allows them to receive the training and mentoring they need to ensure they are successful at Europa.”