Australia’s Truck Driver Shortage Problem Not Getting Any Better

It was only a year and a half ago that we reported on the challenges with driver shortage and how it’s affecting the transport industry. Now, a new report from the Australian Industry Skills Transport is saying that over 80% of transport employers are experiencing a skills shortage in the last twelve months.

 Trucks are currently moving around 75% of (non-bulk) national freight, an amount anticipated to double by 2030, according to a 2016 Volvo Group study. The industry will need to increase by 150% to keep up with pressures and loss of retiring drivers.

 The issue is more dire in Victoria, which is currently facing a shortage of more than 3,000 drivers due to population growth, expansion of infrastructure and escalation of ecommerce.

Driver shortage looming for many years

Peter Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of the Victoria Transport Association, said in an SBS interview that driver shortage is nothing new and has been impacting the industry for decades. His thoughts on barriers to entry and retainment of drivers echo the Volvo Group study, with the primary factors being:

Industry image and public understanding of the road freight industry

  • The professional structure of the training and education of drivers, including expensive barriers to entry
  • Low remuneration with the current casual rate averaging $28 per hour for general, but $43 p/h for dump truck operation
  • High levels of working hours and irregularity of those hours

By some projections, the industry will need 120,000 more truck drivers in the next five years, and tens of thousands or managers, schedulers and other staff.

Where to from here?

For all of its improvements in safety equipment in trucks and regulations around working conditions, the Volvo study confirmed the trucking industry has thus far been unable to shake off its poor public image. But according to Regan Brown, Chief Executive of Labourforce, a major recruiter of driver to the industry, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The reality,” he says, “is that the trucking industry is very professional, very safe and very skilled. Drivers cop a bit of flak — their professionalism is under-recognised — but freight companies know there is no truth to the negative image”.

Another issue compounding the industry are regulations that prohibit young people from driving heavy vehicles on Australian roads, such as B-Doubles, which require a driver to be over the age of 25. Many experts believe this needs to be changed, including Mr Anderson.

“Another reason for the shortage is the inability of the licensing system to allow young people to enter the industry trained, competent and able to gain employment.” He said in a statement. “We hope to address this through our review of licensing laws.”

This review would also look at the costly and highly regulated process by which drivers progress from light vehicles to heavy rigs and road trains. Brown believes that a system of mentoring by older drivers would help motivate younger drivers who might otherwise leave the industry early due to these barriers.

Brown, whose father operated a trucking business, said it was “standard practice” to train new drivers, with the experienced driver sharing a cab with younger driver until they were ready for the big rigs.

For many trucking companies, a key element of their recruitment strategy has involved building partnerships with high schools across Australia, to help encourage young adults to pursue a career in trucking. Some programs have been specifically targeted as women-only, with of these initiatives kicking off last years and all eight participants securing work after graduation.

Brown points out that women have already had success as drivers in the mining industry. ‘‘What we need, is more female champions — to lift the profile [of female truck drivers] and to promote the trucking industry as a genuine career option.’’

About The Drake Group

The Drake Group fully support Australian truck drivers and operators of heavy equipment trailers in their plight to encourage more drivers into the industry. As manufacturers of heavy transport trailers, we understand the importance of education and training of a diverse work group and have on-site apprenticeships in place to empower innovative workers of the future. To learn more about our heavy haulage trailers, check out our range

Image: Viva Energy