Driver shortage drives debate
INDUSTRY CALLS TO USE 457 VISA WORKERS PROMPTS A TRAINING FOCUS
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.