MTA 2022-458

The Brakes team led by Gareth Wightman-Smith (third left) pick up the trophy from Vic Bunby, divisional director of RT Expo organisers Road Transport Media (secondr right)


Faced with recruitment problems due to Brexit, Covid-19 and the driver shortage, Brakes decided to change the way it worked, launching a comprehensive programme of driver engagement. The result was Changing Gears.

Launched in May 2021 with a simple goal – to create a training programme that not only trained non-HGV drivers to acquire their professional C licences, but that also supported them with the emotional and practical support to transition to professional drivers.

Changing Gears rolled out across Brakes’ UK network of 25 sites as a critical lifeline to support the organisation and customer proposition at its hour of greatest need. It also provided development opportunities for staff and external candidates, creating a unique platform to train and retain drivers while maintaining service commitments to customers.

The training programme supports candidates throughout their learning and then on into their professional career. Continual support means drivers can maintain the high standards they achieve. One judge said the work was “absolutely fantastic” and added “I love the Obtain-Train-Sustain-Retain approach. The programme's excellent results speak for themselves”.

A panel expert added that the initiative was “a well-thought out and planned driver training programme that has delivered well with strong support for trainees.

“Ongoing support is excellent and the employee retention rate is very high, no doubt down to the focus on quality rather than cost.”

The same view was echoed by all the judges who felt that Brakes had a very impressive entry overall that illustrated its actions had help solve the company’s driver shortage. The strong support for trainees throughout the process, with training that wasn’t rushed, has had a positive impact on the industry.

“We brought new drivers to the market, along with van drivers who were disillusioned by Covid, and we came up with a programme to support them”

Gareth Wightman-Smith, general manager operations, Brakes