Plenty of drive to earn security
Livestock farmer Andrew Orton is aiming to secure his familys financial future from the ravages of foot-and-mouth disease by taking to the road. He is going to become a lorry driver and is amazed that other farmers are not following his lead.
"I aim to drive for five hours a day, doing relief work for companies when they need me and keep the farm going," says Andrew who farms 182ha (450 acres) at Chiseldon, Wilts. "The haulage industry is suffering from a massive driver shortage so the work is out there."
He is studying at the WTTL Motor Industry College in Devizes for a licence allowing him to drive lorries up to 40 tonnes carrying a wide range of produce. He started the course, paid for by the governments New Deal scheme, on Sept 3 and will take his test this month.
Earning extra money is crucial. "We havent had any foot-and-mouth cases on the farm," he says. "But the commercial value of my livestock has decreased badly and I have had to shoot lambs and even Angus heifers. The government wont start handing out £50 notes to farmers. You must show initiative and help yourself."
Andrews wife has started working in Asda to supplement the income and farmer friends are working in flower shops or as taxi drivers to keep their farms going.
"Its all night work," he says. "It has to be. Daytime is for the farms."
So why lorry driving?
"The idea came at the local job centre. There were a few jobs but they were all set hours which would prohibit work on the farm. Finally, I saw an advert for haulage drivers. Ive always been interested in driving so I decided to find out more."
Andrew commits 30 hours/week to the course, which involves work placements and theory study. "I have to get up earlier than usual, but its really enjoyable."
It was at the course that Andrew heard about the haulage industrys driver shortage.
"Haulage companies are looking for reliable drivers. Farmers have the abilities and if they need the money they should get down to their local job centres and find out more."
Andrew says the course has only one drawback – the medical. "The doctor loved it when I told him I was a farmer. You should have seen him! He got my shirt off very, very quickly and went straight to my lungs for an examination!"
Testing times: Andrew hopes to shed his L-plates and find extra income.