Recruitment of HGV drivers is a big problem for many utility HR and operational teams. In fact, it’s a headache for many businesses in the UK. The Road Haulage Association says it sees a shortfall of 60,000 drivers, with an ageing workforce shedding another 40,000 drivers by next year. This is causing a merry-go-round effect as drivers are lured from one employer to another for the promise of extra money or benefits, adding an above-average churn rate for HGV operations.
For utility companies, there is the additional problem that being able to drive a truck is just one of the skills we need. There is usually a technical job to be done – operating a tanker pumping system, or jetting and vacuumation technology. We are all increasingly keen to deliver excellent customer service. This involves a range of skills, including using initiative, teamwork and communication skills.
Taking on an HGV driver, giving them technical training and nurturing their customer skills, only for them to leave in six months for 50p an hour extra delivering pallets of food for a supermarket chain is a daily risk. The answer may be to pay a little more. Or to pay recruitment agencies even more fees. It may be that we need to place more online ads and attend more recruitment fairs. But there are also more fundamental things we can do.
We can tell people more about what the job of an HGV driver in the utility industry really is about. It is clearly not just driving. It is problem solving, technically achieving, selling and explaining. It is often doing something important that has an instant impact on another person’s life, such as helping a distressed customer with a flooded home. It is emotional, as well as physical and intellectual. There are HGV drivers who yearn for more than just money.
We can be more imaginative about who becomes HGV drivers. We want to attract more women engineers into the industry. Many will have fewer preconceived notions of what an HGV driver does and thinks like. Many might well be attracted to the wider set of skills and attitudes we’re looking to recruit to.
We need to grow our own recruits. Clearer career paths that reward loyalty with a funding for HGV training, leading to a job that pays more money is clearly an option, and one we’re taking.
Telling the right story about what it is to be a water utility HGV driver is a good place to start. Telling it to the right people, inside and outside the company, is critical.