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Our Industry Leading Driving Academy

After FIVE years at Birmingham, the Stark UK Driver Academy is now settled into its new digs in the village of Yarnfield near Stone in Staffordshire.

driver academy

The team provide transport and accommodation as well as industry-leading training for new joiners, plus existing employees or drivers who are looking to upskill.

As far as we’re aware, no other part of the industry has a dedicated Driver Academy function which provides this level of training consistency,” says Karle Swinnerton, Transport compliance and development manager.

Since opening in 2019, the Driver Academy has trained some 2,000 people.

The Driver Academy is here to provide a consistent and structured training format,” says Karle.

[It lets us] make sure drivers are given the very best training, understanding their commitments towards health and safety also and their legal obligations.”

As well as providing the training needed for drivers to do their job safely and efficiently, the Academy also serves to protect the company, making sure all training is full documented and logged to comply with legislation.

The lorry loader course content is fully-aligned with ALLMI, the trade association for lorry loaders, but includes extra guidance on areas like understanding dynamic risk assessments and working at height.

The Driver Academy’s new location also has facilities which mimic actual driving conditions, so drivers can practice kerb side deliveries, rather than a sanitised environment.

This, says David Ryan, Driver Resource and Compliance Manager, is following feedback from the business.

We give them as much practice as we can on the crane, for example, and how to secure a load, or how to use load distribution,” adds Karle.

Courses can last between two and five days depending on the level of training required.

If it’s just a standard rigid goods vehicle with no crane, or even a van, they’ll come in for a two-day induction, concentrating on things like vehicle familiarisation, working hours, load security.

But if they’re coming in for lorry loader training, that’s a five-day course.

The challenge for Karle and his team is engaging an audience who aren’t, in normal circumstances, keen on sitting in a classroom. And simplifying complicated information around things like regulation.

We’re very, very mindful of that,” says Karle – who started out on his own journey as a driver 20 years ago.

For example. getting them to understand the relationship between Road Transport Directive regulations, working time and EU driving regulations relating to how long you can drive and how long you can work.

They’re not exactly easy to convey. but we must break it down to a level that they understand what they need to do.

Feedback is hugely important and says Karle is vital to keep refining the curriculum.

We get feedback from the field team, around how we can improve and develop the training, where we might need to do more of a deep dive.

In terms of the actual course content, it’s always incredibly positive and we work with some very, very good instructors.

The key thing for us is that we are always making sure the drivers go out there and operate safely and look after themselves, look after the public, and look after their colleagues.