Small businesses in Australia’s trucking industry say the sector is struggling due to a poor reputation and difficulty recruiting experienced drivers into what many wrongly view as a “dead-end job”.
A senate committee is investigating the viability, safety and sustainability of the nation’s road transport sector, including a focus on how the sector will respond to the growth of global retail logistics giants and their delivery networks.
The Transport Workers Union is yet to make its submission but national secretary Michael Kaine said it would demand an increase in standards and safety at a time when the margins of smaller businesses were being squeezed, particularly as global delivery giants like Amazon expanded in Australia.
“Our submission will focus on lifting standards so we can save businesses, jobs and lives in our industry. The crisis needs to be addressed urgently: transport workers have by far the highest number of deaths for any industry while all road users are at risk because of the high proportion of people dying in truck crashes. Businesses are going bust every month,” he said.
Early submissions from business owners highlighted fundamental problems with training and recruitment in the sector, with no standard pathways to enter the sector.
Drivers require trucking licences according to state and vehicle requirements though there is currently no standard qualification beyond this to enter the industry.
“The fact that the industry is held in such low regard and dare I say ‘contempt’ by so many within society is disheartening,” chief executive of refrigerated transport company South West Express Mark Mazza said in his submission.
The fact that the industry is held in such low regard and dare I say ‘contempt’ by so many within society is disheartening.
South West Express chief executive, Mark Mazza
“Let’s face it, the industry is seen by many to be a dead-end job.”
Mr Mazza told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age policymakers did not appreciate that the transport industry required highly skilled drivers with training beyond the operation of heavy vehicles.
“The biggest single issue is that there is a disconnect between the education system into our industry… There’s no standard regarding procedures and skill set, it’s a workplace-by-workplace shemozzle,” he said.
The number of Australians working in Australia’s trucking industry is set to grow from 209,000 to 223,000 over the next five years, according to the Department of Jobs and Small Business.
The sector has a large proportion of older workers with the average age of an Australian truck driver 47 years old, and more than half the driving population is over 45.
The federal government has a number of roads initiatives including its Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program however this is focused on road and infrastructure improvements for safety, rather than driver training.
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack was contacted for comment.
Other operators pointed to the overall low reputation of the sector as a barrier to attracting new talent.
“If the public starts viewing the Transport Industry as a fabulous and an essential part of society needs, it will then be more accepted on our roads and also as a chosen career path for future employment,” director of Dubbo business Tippings Transport, Sally Tipping wrote in her submission.
The inquiry is accepting submissions until October 17 with a plan to report to the government by April 2020.