TRANSPORT


Running on empty

Trucking vacancies rose by 60% in the past three years.

87% of employers in transport, report skill shortage in the last year.

Industry needs to come together to reform licensing to help younger drivers.

Insurers only willing to insure inexperienced drivers on certain routes and in certain vehicles.

It is no secret that the transport industry faces a skilled driver shortage which is reaching crisis stage in the trucking sector. There may be drivers ready and willing to take on a role in the industry, but without experience it is increasingly difficult to secure a position, and secure insurance cover for owners and operators. The industry needs to come together to work on ways to bring more talent into its ranks before it’s too late.

Short on skill

The need for freight services continues to increase, but there just aren’t enough competent drivers to fill the demand. Truck traffic is predicted to increase by 50% by 2030 as Australia’s population continues to increase alongside the demand for Australasian products in the Asian market. Over 87% of employers in the transport industry have reported a skills shortage in the last 12 months, with truck drivers the biggest area of concern. A shortage of experienced or qualified personnel was cited as the biggest reason for the skills shortages employers face.


In the three years to 2018, trucking job vacancies have risen 60%. The transport industry is crying out for new entrants at all levels, with the shortage of competent drivers being one of the biggest risks facing the transport industry in Australia. While insurance coverage for inexperienced drivers is harder to come by, transport owners and operators should look to work with their broker to strategise ways to get inexperienced drivers more time behind the wheel, rather than dismissing hiring out of hand.

"The transport industry is crying out for new entrants at all levels, with the shortage of skilled drivers being one of the biggest risks facing the transport industry in Australia."

Insurers will ask for set levels of experience before drivers embark on more challenging routes or in bigger vehicles, but are happy to set up exclusions to give younger drivers the experience they need to progress in their career. Insurers may say that a younger driver should only work certain routes or drive certain vehicles while they gain more experience, often for two or more years, so insurance cover can be made available. It simply takes an experienced broker to find the right level of cover to make sure your business can continue to grow and younger drivers can build their careers.

"Currently the majority of heavy vehicle licensing courses are designed to be delivered in the shortest possible time, and focus on a driver securing licensing rather than learning the trade."

Safety first

It is important that the industry considers all of the ramifications of talent shortages and doesn’t rush to bring on inexperienced drivers. While we do face a challenge in bringing in younger drivers, safety must always be our top priority.


Globally we have seen tragic examples of what a dangerous job truck driving can be. In Canada, an inattentive driver killed 16 youth hockey players in a collision last year, and has recently been sentenced to eight years in prison. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Canada has rewritten its laws around driver training and qualifications, and Australia should take note rather than waiting for an accident to occur.


The Canadian government has instituted an entry-level training standard for truck drivers, alongside new and enhanced training requirements and road knowledge testing. In Australia, we’ve been discussing more formalised training for decades and still nothing has been done. Truck driving is a dangerous job, it puts millions of dollars’ worth of equipment at risk, not to mention hazardous loads or the people risk that having inexperienced drivers can bring to the road.


Currently the majority of heavy vehicle licensing courses are designed to be delivered in the shortest possible time, and focus on a driver securing licensing rather than learning the trade. Does this really enable adequate understanding of the risks of the job? If we had a more formalised licensing approach, that could also help navigate job shortages related to experience. Drivers don’t all of sudden become safer after two years, however, by giving younger drivers a more rigorous and formalised training regime, we can help better qualify drivers and enhance the standards of all drivers to a consistently high level.

"As an issue that is impacting the whole transport industry, the whole industry needs to work together to come up with solutions..."

Apprenticeship the answer to an ageing workforce?

While the situation in the transport industry currently is far from ideal, it could be about to get worse. According to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, the average age of a worker in the transport industry is 45. This means that a large proportion of the industry is set to retire in the next two decades. While automation and technological advances may lessen this blow somewhat, the industry needs to get its house in order now or face a real crisis further down the road.


As an issue that is impacting the whole transport industry, the whole industry needs to work together to come up with solutions, looking at everything from the ground up. That means more work in schools to promote the transport industry, work on diversity to get more women behind the wheel and supporting younger drivers as they gain experience and driver skill qualities.


While it has been talked about in transport circles for some time, could an apprenticeship provide the answer? That would allow the younger members of the industry time to gain their experience, and give them an achievement at the end of their training period to work towards.


With the Productivity Commission recently tasked with reviewing national transport reforms, now is the time for the industry to have its say. The commission will look at all aspects of transport regulation and offers a valuable chance for the industry to voice its concerns, praise its triumphs and work together to find solutions for the challenges on the horizon.

More transport insights


The benefits of in-cab monitoring systems as part of a holistic approach to risk management

Roz Shaw, Head of Transport at Gallagher discusses the benefits of in-cab monitoring systems as part of a holistic approach to risk management

Licensing and road networks should be government spending priorities

As a committed advocate for safety in road transport, Gallagher National Head of Transport Roz Shaw welcomes the Federal Budget allocation for improvements but would like to see the government also focus on driver licensing reform.

Roz Shaw

National Head of Transport

T: (07) 3002 2287

M: 0418 739 272

E: roz.shaw@ajg.com.au

Sources:

National Industry Insights Report, Transport, Australian Industry and Skills Committee (1 April 2019)

Australian Industry Standards, Transport and Logistics IRC Skills Forecast, 2017 (29 March 2019)

Australian Industry Standards, Transport and Logistics IRC Skills Forecast, 2017 (29 March 2019)

Labourforce Trucking Report April 2019 (29 March 2019)

‘Truck driver in crash that devastated hockey team is sentenced to 8 years’ The New York Times (22 March 2019)

Truck driver training protocol will be in place within a year: Marc Garneau’ GlobalNews.CA (January 21 2019)

Transport and Logisitcs’ National Industry Insights (3 January 2019)

Productivity Commission to tackle fright transport reforms’ Fullyloaded.com.au (5 April 2019)2