Autistic heavy truck driver laughs at school, refuses to give up his dream job
An autistic trucker is determined to continue achieving his life’s ambition despite the pressures leading to a driver shortage.
Stuart Harvey was laughed at in primary school when he told his class about his dream job, but now he drives his articulated truck across the UK.
The 28-year-old, who has been driving for nearly three years, set his sights on the heavy-duty industry when he saw garbage trucks on his street as a child.
His high-level Asperger’s, a form of autism, means he has a structured approach to his work, using a mind map to avoid frustrating heists.
Stuart believes the shortage of heavy truck drivers – with the government having to recruit from the military and the RAF to restock gas stations – is due to the relentless nature of the 24/7 road transport network.
“I have wanted to drive my whole life since I was a kid seeing garbage trucks coming into our street to pick up garbage,” he said.
“It was my grandfather who really inspired me as he did his national service in the army driving heavy vehicles such as tank carriers and ambulances.
“It got passed down because my dad took the test in the 90s, but he never drove professionally, just in his spare time.
“For me it was obvious and in 2019 I got my full Class One and started on rigid trucks before doing articulated work. Since then, I have been driving during the Covid and the transport crisis.
“You never think you’ll end up on the front line of it all, but I kept driving the whole way.”
Stuart, from Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, drives an articulated truck and trailer, which he named the Road Runner.
His bosses at a logistics company have told him they’ve never known another autistic truck driver, and he’s also going against the trend just by being an employee.
“Due to my Asperger’s I see things from a different perspective and I am very structured and methodical in the way I do things,” he said.
“It can be a challenge to keep a cool head when faced with a situation that you might not expect, but I have a mind map and if there is a traffic problem coming up I can plot the route at the same time as me. ” I drive.
“It’s like having a map of the UK in front of my face and tracing a route through it.”
The carrier believes that people with autism are an untapped resource, with just 21.7% of jobs, according to the Office for National Statistics.
It identifies round-the-clock demands from the industry, including supermarket chains and delivery giants such as Amazon, as a key part of the driver shortage.
“The problem is like climate change, it’s been brewing for 30 years,” he said.
“In recent years the UK has entered the 24 hour delivery business with everything it needed yesterday. This is basically why there is a shortage.
Stuart began driving rigid trucks before becoming a Class 1 heavy truck driver working nights for Road Runner.
It also breaks the mold in terms of years, as the average age of a trucker is 53, according to the International Longevity Center-UK think tank.
“When I was in school in the ’90s, no one was encouraged to become a truck driver because it was an unattractive industry,” Stuart said.
“There was a show-and-tell at my school and I was about seven at the time. I was told to stand up in front of the class and tell them what I wanted to be.
“When I said I wanted to be a truck driver, they all laughed at me. There has not been enough education about the industry across the generations.
“Computers and digital technology are advancing at lightning speed and the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency should consider developing mobile truck simulation units, which can be taken to places like schools, universities, colleges. and even driving schools, as a way to inspire and train new people. ‘
Another young driver told Metro.co.uk earlier this week that he saw the profession as a dream job, but was on sick leave and now wanted to leave the industry. He echoed widespread complaints from the workforce about grueling hours, low wages and a lack of proper resting places.
However, Stuart isn’t about to take his foot off the pedal anytime soon.
“You obviously work for a company, but when you are on the road you are your own boss,” he said.
“I have worked for companies in other sectors where they push you to go faster and faster, which for my autism is catastrophic because I only have one speed, and it is methodical .
“My job is relatively easy compared to lighter work where people spend days abroad or sleep in rest areas. I’m back home on a shift, which can last up to 1 p.m.
“This is something that I have wanted to do all my life and if I quit now I give up on my dream.”
The government said it has taken a series of measures to try to reduce the driver shortage, including encouraging those who have left the profession to return and “skills training camps” to train up to 4,000 additional drivers.
A spokesperson said: “We recognize that companies face a range of challenges and we are taking many steps to support them, including streamlining the process for new truck drivers and increasing the number of vehicle tests. conduct.
“Progress has already been made in testing and hiring, with improved wages, working conditions and diversity.
“We are closely monitoring the labor supply and working with industry leaders to understand how we can best alleviate particular pinch points.
“Through our Jobs Plan, we are helping people across the UK retrain, learn new skills and find new jobs.‘
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