Truck driver shortage is looming

By Alana Christensen

The future of freight transport in the region is in doubt as the industry struggles to attract people and the average age of truck drivers continues to rise.

After advertising a truck driving position a number of weeks ago, Lemnos-based Kreskas Bros Transport’s managing director Peter Hill said the age of applicants didn’t bode well for the future.

With the average age of a truck driver at 48 years old and climbing, younger people were needed within the industry, he said.

‘‘Most of the people that applied (for the job) were over 50,’’ Mr Hill said.

Australia Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey data suggests nearly half of the current workforce in the industry will be aged over 65 by 2026.

New jobs and worker turnover could create up to 10000 trucking job openings each year until 2020, the data suggests, but Mr Hill has expressed concerns about meeting the future demand.

‘‘The (federal) government are talking about the freight task doubling over the next 10 years.

‘‘We’ve got a critical shortage of people now ... when the freight task doubles, I have no idea how we’ll have enough people to drive trucks at that stage.’’

For MMV Transport director Leckie Milne, long-haul truck driving is a lifestyle that many people unwilling to sign up for.

‘‘When it’s $400 for a 15-minute mistake (in the driver’s log book) or $600 for forgetting to sign your name, it beggars belief. And then they wonder why we don’t have enough drivers,’’ Mr Milne said.

‘‘There’s just not enough. Like I say, it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle and it’s not always for everyone.’’

Even when businesses within the industry had enough employees, Mr Hill said the rules and regulations could sometimes prevent them from staying on.

Pointing to work diaries, he said fines handed out for errors were often a tough pill to swallow.

‘‘If you make a mistake at work that’s 15 minutes on a form, would the police pull you over and fine you $400?’’ he said.

‘‘What would happen if that happened in another industry? People would quit. And that happens within our industry; the good people that have been fined for making a genuine mistake — they’ve left.’’