Dumfries and Galloway companies Nithcree Training and Currie European were praised in the Scottish Parliament this week for their efforts to encourage more people to train as HGV drivers.
Joan McAlpine, MSP for South Scotland, cited the companies’ experience in a debate highlighting the skills shortages in the haulage industry.
Ms McAlpine, who visited Nithcree in advance of her speech, highlighted the frustrations in accessing funding for training and licenses, and the economic impacts driver shortages cause local businesses.
During the debate Ms McAlpine said:
“The sector is extremely important to my region. I take the opportunity to recognise two Dumfries-based companies—Nithcree Training Services, which has been mentioned, and Currie European Transport—for their efforts in encouraging more people to train as HGV drivers. I spoke to the leaders of both those companies in advance of the debate to get a first-hand view on the challenges and how to overcome them. At Nithcree Training, I spoke to the director, Elizabeth Campbell, to find out more about the shortages. She highlighted the cost of HGV training, which can be prohibitive. In fact, she said that taking someone from scratch to being trained in every kind of HGV and load could cost around £5,000 in certificates and licences.”
Ms McAlpine outlined some of the frustrations faced by industry, including a lack of funding for people to undertake training and the excessive cost of insurance for apprentice training schemes, stating:
“Currie European has an excellent apprenticeship scheme for young people. The company, which has a great relationship with the local schools, takes apprentices from school. Tom Barrie, its owner, said that, although it was and would remain absolutely committed to its apprenticeship scheme, the cost of insurance was prohibitive and the company was looking for any assistance that it could get on that.”
She also explained the negative impact of the removal of UK Government overnight tax breaks for drivers and highlighted the economic impact of driver shortages to the wider economy:
“Mr Barrie employs more than 300 people at Currie European but, because of the shortages, he has to turn work away. If he is doing that, it means that the companies that need to get goods to people are not getting them to those people on time. As other members have said, the shortage of drivers is affecting the economy as a whole.”
The debate was called by Chic Brodie MSP who explained the value of the road haulage sector in Scotland:
“Its net contribution is more than £5 billion, and it contributes more than 5.5 per cent of the total Scottish gross value added. It is also a vital component in helping to deliver Scotland’s exports which in themselves are a key component of Scotland’s economic strategy: we are on track to double our exports over the period 2012 to 2017. The sector fuels the retail market, secures manufacturing output through the delivery of raw materials and components to industry and also harnesses indigenous industries such as farming and forestry.”
Mr Brodie added that there is a shortage of 11,000 drivers in Scotland and indicated that barriers to recruitment, skills shortages and an understanding of the scale of the issue as well as access to the industry all needed to be addressed.
Pictured: Joan on a visit to Nithcree Training.