A North East firm is recruiting drivers from Romania to cope with a shortage of UK drivers.
Family run Stiller Warehousing and Distribution, based on Aycliffe Business Park, said it is having to import fully trained drivers to plug the gap as demand for its services rises.
The firm spent more than £1m on vehicles at the end of 2013 to help the firm cope with business growth, but said it had launched its own in-house driver training course to help get more experienced truck drivers on the road.
Managing director Paul Stiller said: “We’re now recruiting at all levels, including lorry drivers. Some of our staff will transfer and some may transfer from other areas, but we’re definitely recruiting more drivers.
“We recently recruited a driver from Romania through an agency and it has worked really well.
“Importing drivers direct from Europe is possibly something we’re going to do regularly, as there is a shortage of drivers locally. It seems to be a little bit better now, but what we’re really lacking is experienced drivers.”
The Aycliffe firm launched its own training programme to help its inexperienced drivers get up to speed, some of whom have been recruited through the armed forces Career Transition Partnership Scheme.
He said: “There are a fair few inexperienced drivers, newly-licensed guys, but they lack the experience. With that in mind, we’ve set up a fairly comprehensive, in-house training programme for these guys, which is an intense programme, teaching them every aspect of the job.
“We’ve also written a new driver’s handbook which details all the legal requirements of the modern-day driver. At this time it’s only in English, but we may have it translated into other languages in the future.”
The warehousing specialists is creating 10 new jobs after clinching a £15m deal with Coveris Rigid UK to manage its Drum Park premises, on Drum Industrial Estate in Chester-le-Street.
Directors believe the new contract will take the firm’s sales from £10m to between £12.5m and £13m in 2015.
Mr Stiller said: “This is a fantastic deal for the company and we’re absolutely delighted.
“We have been working in conjunction with the Coveris team within a very challenging timeframe. We are very proud of the set up work which has been carried out by our team under the leadership of our general manager, Brian Simpson.
“We’re now looking forward to operating alongside Coveris Rigid and helping them to continually improve the logistics solutions over the next five years and beyond.”
Stiller, which has 115 employees, will manage 264,000sqft Drum Park and also manage distribution for Coveris, which is a world leader in the manufacture and distribution of packaging solutions and coated film technologies.
The formerly derelict building will be fully operational by April, after which Coveris will distribute around 30bn units from the site across the UK every year.
Coveris Rigid operations manager Ian Donal said: “We have a very defragmented logistics set-up, with sites split between Scotland, Cramlington and Newton Aycliffe, and for the first time we’ll be able to have everything on one site, so we’ll save a lot of money on logistics.
“More importantly it will mean we’ll be able to be more efficient in the way we service our customers, so it’s good news for them as well.”