HGV driver shortage meant Bedford council hired drivers that may have otherwise missed the cut

The hard work and dedication of existing drivers was praised

By John Guinn, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 18th July 2022, 5:17 pm

The shortage of HGV drivers has led Bedford Borough Council to hire drivers that may have missed the cut at other times.

But the council carries out a skills analysis to ensure drivers are safe before they head out onto the streets, it added.

A report presented to the Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee last week (Thursday, July 14) said at its peak there was an estimated UK shortage of between 60,000 and 100,000 HGV drivers.

The country was hit by an HGV driver shortage (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

The chief officer for environment, Paul Pace told the Committee that the council employs a “significant” number of HGV drivers.

“From our point of view [the shortage] has been challenging,” he said.

“The issue in the marketplace at the moment is where in the past we’ve interviewed staff and we’ve almost said ‘no, not sure, let’s have the next person’. We’ve had to take [them] on because there isn’t that luxury of interviewing [the next person].

“If we get someone to come in, if they’ve got the licence then we will take them. They go through a skills analysis – we don’t put them straight out onto the street,” he said.

“We have to make sure that we’re happy that driver, even though he’s got the licence, is going to drive that vehicle safely.” he clarified.

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“It’s as simple as that to try and keep the service going,” he said.

Mr Pace said the council has introduced training to develop and grow its own drivers.

“Taking those that come in at lower stage and training them up,” he said.

“We obviously tie them to a couple of years staying with the authority, if not they have to pay back some their training fees. That’s something that’s worked reasonably well for us.”

Mr Pace also praised the staff for their efforts to keep the services running.

“We’ve managed by hook by crook due to the dedication of our own staff,” he said.

“That’s a real selling point here, using our own staff and not having contractors has made a real difference to us, they’ve been incredibly loyal and hard-working.

“They’ve come in when they’ve had time off to help us out, they’ve volunteered to do the extra hours and things like that to keep the service going,” he said.