Features & Interviews

HGV heroes: How a charity is helping ex-military personnel train as drivers

23 February 2023 #Features & Interviews

Since it was founded in 2020, Veterans into Logistics has changed the lives of ex-forces personnel by helping them gain paid employment in the logistics sector.

As part of its work the non-profit organisation has successfully trained or supported hundreds of ex-military personnel into new HGV driving careers with logistics companies such as Asda, Muller and XPO Logistics.

This has provided a much-needed pathway for veterans into the transport industry and created an important recruitment pipeline for the HGV sector at a time of driver shortages.

Last year the UK government, via its Officer for Veterans’ Affairs, provided £100,000 in funding to the charity to significantly increase staff numbers and treble the amount of training available.

Darren Wright, Director of Veterans into Logistics, said former members of the armed forces gain great skills and experience while in the military and the charity wants to ensure that those skills are fully utilised when they move into civilian work.

“We have managed to change so many lives over the past two years, whilst tackling the HGV driver shortage by working with some great forward-leaning companies who champion our veterans/service leavers,” Darren said.

“However, we know we can do so much more with Government support to enhance our mission moving forward.

“Ex-military personnel have a set of skills that the companies we work with look for in employees, they have had morals and standards drilled into them throughout their career and will keep these as a veteran – they are a dedicated, loyal breed of individual.”

Carl Pearson, 39, from Wolverhampton was an infantry soldier who served in the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment and saw active service in Afghanistan.

He had driven military vehicles, including Land Rovers during his time in the army, and, after being made redundant from a civilian job, he had a chance meeting with Veterans into Logistics trustee, who put him in contact with the charity.

Since undergoing his training with Veterans into Logistics, Carl has passed his Class 1 and Class 2 HGV licences and has been working for Culina Group.

He said: “My job is fulfilling and I’m thoroughly enjoying driving across the West Midlands where I make about 15 drops a day, on an 80-mile round trip.

“Working at Culina and with the support I’ve received from the team at Veterans into Logistics, I feel like I’ve found the family I lost after leaving the military.

“I know other veterans will feel the same way and I urge them to contact the charity if they’re considering a career in the logistics industry.

“There is a brighter future, earning a good wage, where you will be trained and mentored by people who care and understand what you’re going through.”

Veterans into Logistics recently received £40,000 from supermarket Asda, enabling it to train 10 armed forces veterans as HGV drivers.

Carl Smith joined the army as a junior soldier in 1979 and was a regular in the 3rd Royal Horse Artillery and a full-term reservist with the Royal Artillery Regiment, serving in Northern Ireland, Germany, Kosovo and Bosnia, as well as the first Gulf War in 1991.

The 60-year-old got in touch with Veterans into Logistics as soon as he left the armed forces in September last year and has been employed in the transport office at Asda’s Skelmersdale depot while he completes his HGV training.

Liverpool-born Carl said: “Some people may think that because you’ve been in the military all your life you are boxed off and sorted, but you’re not.

“The plan is that when I pass my HGV test then I will be buddied up for six to eight weeks with an experienced driver and they will teach me the ropes until I’m deemed ready to take to the roads on my own.

“The whole set up is really good and I’m so happy to be employed by Asda.”

Run by former soldiers such as Darren, Veterans into Logistics understands the skills, discipline, and hard-working ethos that ex-military personnel have from their careers in the armed forces, and provides personal mentoring.

As an official partner of Veterans into Logistics, XPO Logistics also helps mentor veterans and service leavers who are interested in becoming truck drivers.

XPO drivers share their experience with candidates and help them decide what type of role will suit them once they become a qualified truck driver.

The logistics firm has recruiters trained in military culture who connect with veterans through targeted hiring events, customer partnerships and outreach programmes with armed forces organisations.

Dan Myers, Managing Director UK and Ireland, XPO Logistics, said: “Veterans are great team players, they know the power of pulling together to deliver results.

“Their sense of duty and passion are an inspiration and we are proud to support this fantastic programme.”

Veterans into Logistics is also developing a programme with Muller Dairies to support ex-military who have previously been in prison, to find work in Muller’s distribution warehouses, further helping their rehabilitation.

The plans will also allow the veterans to be trained in parallel as HGV drivers.

In addition, thanks to the support of Rochdale Borough Council, Veterans into Logistics now has its own DVSA-approved reversing test site which speeds up the process of veterans obtaining their HGV licences.

This designated training area at Bowlee in Greater Manchester enables veterans to practice their reversing skills before taking their tests.

Councillor Janet Emsley, Cabinet Member for the Armed Forces at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “The hard-standing area at Bowlee provides the perfect space to train and practice reversing large vehicles and is just another way we can help support the armed forces family.”

Veterans into Logistics helps former soldiers to make the most of their skills and gain employment in civilian life while growing the recruitment pipeline in the HGV sector at a time of driver shortages.

More importantly perhaps, the support from the organisation brings much-needed structure, stability and financial security to the lives of many veterans.

For more information, visit www.veteransintologistics.org.uk

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