Driver short­age drives de­bate

IN­DUS­TRY CALLS TO USE 457 VISA WORK­ERS PROMPTS A TRAIN­ING FO­CUS

Big Rigs - - INDUSTRY OPINION -

IN EARLY 2014, a chronic short­age of truck drivers prompts a con­tro­ver­sial call for the in­dus­try to be added to the skilled oc­cu­pa­tion list to al­low work­ers from for­eign coun­tries to gain a 457 visa.

The Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion made the call to fill the driver short­age it said needed a mir­a­cle to be fixed.

The de­bate took up plenty of head­lines through­out the year with many say­ing the only bar­rier for young new drivers in Aus­tralia was a lack of train­ing.

In the Jan­uary 31 edi­tion, Pil­bara Heavy Haulage Girls owner and in­dus­try stal­wart Heather Jones en­cour­aged com­pa­nies to put on more trainees.

She told Big Rigs her own com­pany had trained young drivers for free for more than a decade.

"Em­ploy­ers need to look out­side the square," she said.

"We need to grow our own truck drivers. The truck driver tree is now e m p t y.

"I feel we have a very large num­ber of newly li­censed truck drivers in Aus­tralia who want to drive and just haven’t been given the op­por­tu­nity."

The ATA made a sub­mis­sion to the Aus­tralian Work­force and Pro­duc­tiv­ity Agency ar­gu­ing the case for truck driv­ing to be added to the skilled oc­cu­pa­tion list.

It high­lighted driver short­ages in Dar­win and ru­ral or re­mote ar­eas across Queens­land, Vic­to­ria and West­ern Aus­tralia.

The Trans­port Work­ers Union cam­paigned against the use of 457 visas in the in­dus­try, ar­gu­ing it would in­crease dan­ger­ous driv­ing rates and al­low visa hold­ers to be ex­ploited.

The de­bate was sev­eral years old by 2014 – in­dus­try or­gan­i­sa­tions first made the call in 2007 for 457 visas to be used to make up the skills short­fall. It was des­tined to re­main a de­bate. The ATA’s bid to al­low the use of 457 visas in the freight in­dus­try failed.

As of 2016, truck driv­ing was not on the list of skilled oc­cu­pa­tions.

Drivers have been caught il­le­gally work­ing on a 457 visa how­ever and the de­bate came to the fore­front again two years later in 2016 when a driver ini­tially thought to be on a 457 visa caused traf­fic chaos be­cause he couldn’t re­verse his B-dou­ble.

While it was found the man was not on a 457 visa, the in­dus­try reignited the de­bate, sug­gest­ing the driver short­age was over.

I feel we have a very large num­ber of newly li­censed truck drivers in Aus­tralia who want to drive and just haven’t been given the op­por­tu­nity.

Heather Jones driv­ing in the Pil­bara.

on Chan­nel 7 news.

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