Truck driver shortage puts brakes on industry

A five-year plan to navigate impediments that could cripple the industry – including a shortage of 1000 drivers, lack of investment in roads and the need for formalised training – needs to be kick started now, says an industry expert.

Western Roads Federation CEO Cam Dumesny is calling for everyone involved in freight and logistics to help shape the next one to five to years with a symposium to be held on September 18 to thrash out the issues.

With the state now facing a 1000-person driver shortage and increasing pressure on transport infrastructure as the state grows, Dumesny says it’s imperative industry unites to plan the way forward.

“There’s been a general deskilling of the industry because of the downturn. We are up to probably 1000 drivers short in WA and probably more. We can’t get them. Even the removalists are saying they are paying 30 per cent above award. They can’t get removalists,” he says.

“We need to start that process with the intention of putting together a road freight strategy for WA that’s driven by industry and business. To start to the process, we must come together as an industry.”

“Wages are going up, but even mechanics, they are screaming for them too and can’t recruit mechanics. It’s a fairly wide spread skills shortage from drivers through to all your traditional blue-collar trades.”

“The skill shortage is the most pressing issue at the moment. Following the Drivers’ Summit held in June, we have been progressing a proposal with the State Government to set up an industry skills training centre.”

Road block for expansion

JD Container Logistics Business Manager Adam Woods says the inability to recruit truck drivers is impeding the company’s expansion plans. He says the company receives a number of applicants, but too many lack the necessary skills and training.

“There is a problem and what it really nuts down to is times have changed. The level of compliance and the cost is through the roof,” he says.

“With the level of safety involved now, the level of compliance, chain of responsibility etc, we really do need a formal qualification to be able to cover off on it. There’s more to driving than steering the truck around.

“They need genuine training, not sitting in the classroom but I mean like an electrician and actually being on the job and getting that qualification before they can hop into a truck.”

JD Container Logistics runs 24 trucks with 16 company drivers and eight subcontractors.

“We are really struggling and I don’t know what the answer is. We are looking to expand and the lack of skilled drivers is one of the limiting factors. One is attracting the right people and the other is that driving and transport is really not someone’s first choice of career any more,” he says.

Dumesny says while last year’s inaugural freight and logistics conference looked at long term strategies such as Westport, this year’s symposium offered two sessions with strategy to be covered in the morning.

The Queensland Trucking Association will run a practical session on mitigating risk in the afternoon, to help small business operators get their policies and procedures in order.

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