Lord Prescott gets behind the wheel of a major skills boost for road haulage

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 25 May 2018

A major investment has been unveiled in Immingham, plugged in to plug the skills gap in road transport.

Modal Training’s life-scale truck simulator revved up to deliver a huge boost to the haulage and logistics sector, with former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott joining Grimsby Institute executives and industry representatives to see it glide through the gears.

The actual Mercedes cab sits before a huge panoramic screen, with displays for mirrors too, capable of projecting any scenario required - be it a bleak winter or a motorway blow-out. 

Taking in the wider £7 million Middleplatt Road facility, which includes vessel bridges and a ship’s engine room, Lord Prescott said: “It is so impressive, I’m amazed.

“I have seen all through my time simulators, but none of them look like these. It used to be just a front window, this is so big, and it matches the ambition for the Humber! 

“This gives us what we need, what is provided here is a lot of the training we need, be it maritime or logistics.

“We are changing the nature of the estuary with renewable energy, and the Humber is more than a river, and I’m here to see how we can develop more of the South Bank.

“The Humber has got it, not just the wind, but the land to develop and supply industry. The Mersey is built on the oil industry, and yes we have refineries here, but with all that is going on with renewables, all this training, the Humber will become the Energy Estuary. We need to show the Government all the assets we have got.”

Lord Prescott is preparing a report to contribute to the Industrial Strategy, and went on to take in Grimsby Institute’s main site, with Modal an industry-focused dedicated satellite base part-funded by Humber Local Enterprise Partnership.

North East Lincolnshire MPs Melanie Onn (Grimsby) and Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes and Immingham) were also at the launch.

Mr Vickers said: “It is another tremendous training asset for the area. We are a major centre for the haulage industry, and not only local hauliers, but national hauliers can get involved. Hopefully it will attract businesses into the area.

“The reality is we have got to get out workforce more highly trained, and we have got to ensure we have higher standards.”

He told how he contributed to the Transport Committee’s investigation into the shortage of drivers. “Hopefully this will appeal and we can encourage aspiring drivers,” he said. “It will appeal to younger people, it may drive them in and hopefully start to redress the shortage.”

Ms Onn, who got behind the wheel, said: “Modal is expanding all the time, and is leading on developing training that is really specific to the Humber. It is really important for local businesses and I am sure it will become recognised more widely and we will start to see it as a centre of excellence regionally and nationally.

“There are lots of opportunities here, companies can make sure their staff are properly trained to the highest possible level without the risk of the practical side of taking a massive HGV out on the road.

“The rules for the road are getting more stringent, there have been awful accidents with HGVs, I am sure people will find this useful, and fit for purpose, so we can reduce the chances of such accidents.” 

A total of 29,000 people work in the Humber’s ports and logistics industry, with many thousands more nationwide. 

Hugh Callaway, director of Modal Training, was delighted to oversee the third phase development, with the maritime and crane simulators now added to. He said: “We want to partner with logistics businesses to improve their bottom line practically, through training. 

“The truck simulator will enable these businesses to tackle some of their core costs of fuel and insurance, and the beauty of the simulator is we can run the same exercise consistently and tailor it to individual driver and company requirements.”

Examples given included analysis of fleets where accidents are more prevalent in winter, with ice and water hazards introduced at the touch of a button. 

“We have a huge opportunity to improve logistics, Mr Callaway said. "We have a slogan, from the driver to the boardroom, and we intend to offer courses across the entire spectrum.”

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