A total of 230 permanent full-time driving jobs are being created across the UK, of which 24 will be based in Wales, by Newport-based managed service provider, Smart Solutions, on the back of a flurry of new contract wins.
The firm has a growing client list in the public service sector and has won a number of contracts that require servicing across the UK, leading to the creation of the permanent positions.
However, it has pointed out to industry and clients that there is a worrying shortage of qualified drivers, a situation which has been acerbated by regulations regarding driver qualifications which are due to come into effect next month.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency introduced regulations concerning the standard of professional qualifications for LGV and PCV drivers in 2009 to ensure all drivers across the profession were of a consistent standard. As part of this, as of September 9, 2014, all new professional LGV drivers must hold the Driver CPC certification in addition to their licence to drive professionally.
Existing LGV drivers do not have to retake their driving test but must undertake 35 hours of periodic training by that date to keep their Driver CPC valid. And all drivers must then undertake 35 hours of periodic training every five years to keep their Driver CPC valid.
In 2013, the industry was warning that this would have an impact on driver numbers across the UK, with older drivers saying that they would leave the profession rather than go through the Driver CPC. And as the deadline looms, time is running out for other existing drivers to complete the required 35 hours of periodic training in time, or potentially risk facing up to £1,000 fine.
Nathan Bowles, CEO of Smart Solutions, said: "The shortage of large goods vehicle drivers is an industry-wide issue that managed service providers across the country are experiencing.
"As the economy improves and we scale up our national driving division, it is becoming increasingly challenging to fill certain positions, especially LGV Class 2 drivers.
"It's a case of supply and demand, and there are simply not enough qualified drivers in the profession. Last year, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) stated that new entrants to the driving workforce had dropped from a high of 48,227 in 2005 to just over 25,000 in 2012.
"And, unfortunately, it's a situation that has been made all the more acute by many industry clients requesting at least two years' experience for drivers, as well as the looming September Driver CPC deadline.
"It's not an understatement to say that unless this skills shortage is addressed as a matter of urgency, then we fear that it may contribute to a slow down in the economic recovery, as drivers are the vital link in the UK supply chain and 60 per cent of all freight is moved by road.
"We are taking on newly qualified drivers and guaranteeing our driver workforce free Driver CPC training to help us secure sufficient and qualified people to keep up with the growing demand. As an approved training centre, Smart Solutions is hoping that this will help recruit younger drivers in particular, who are finding it difficult to gain the much-sought after two years' LGV driving experience. Without question, it is these drivers that will be the lifeblood of the industry going forward."