HOW TO SOLVE THE DRIVER CRISIS
Younger people are shunning driving jobs
MILLENNIALS, the 22 to 37-year-olds, have the lowest generational participation in the road transport industry since horse teams gave way to motorised transport.
Participation of this age group in road transport is far below the national average of all industries.
As the national freight task grows – expected to double by 2030 – economists are predicting the nation is heading for an economic trainwreck without enough truck drivers to keep wheels rolling in a country dependent on road transport.
The grey beards of the industry are pulling their hair out trying to work out a way to attract younger people, male and female, to keep Australia going, which, as we all know, rides on the back of a truck.
With the average age of a truck driver now about 47, with more truck drivers in middle age and beyond, this is a problem that is going to impact in the next decade.
It is easy to predict that autonomous trucks will fill the need for drivers but they are far from proven for the high-speed long-haul runs on which the Australian economy depends.
Autonomous vehicles may find use in repetitive tasks and slower-moving urban distribution.
But the bottom line is Australia needs a large number of new truck drivers coming into the industry in the next 20 years.
How does industry attract the younger generations?
Peter Anderson, the chief executive officer of the Victorian Transport Association, has been flying the flag for making the industry attractive to newcomers.
He has boiled a strategy down to:
1. Change the industry’s perception by changing the language used to describe it; and
2. Develop a minimum standard of operation and undergo licensing reform.
“We don’t believe the licensing system to get your heavy vehicle licence is currently strong enough,” Mr Anderson said.
He points out that with a heavy vehicle licence, you don’t have to do prescribed hours of driving/training.
The VTA is pushing for an eight-day concentrated course for a would-be truck driver to complete before getting a heavy rigid licence.
How will this attract more young people?
What are men and women millennials looking for in a job or career?
There has been a change in career expectation through the years.
Today a young person looks for safety in a professional workplace that has real equity, diversity and mutual respect with a career path that offers advancement.
There is a perceived expectation that millennials want to be home each night, they don’t want their social life interfered with by anything so mundane as a job.
Having worked with people from the millennial generation, this writer does not believe that.
There is a percentage of adventure seekers out there the same as always, but the industry has to offer more.
Perhaps the industry needs to create an image of what the industry will look like in the future.
In 2028, the industry may not look exactly what is described here, but it is that type of future that needs to be planned and promoted if young entrants are to be attracted.
What will the industry look like in 2028?
It will be a high-tech industry expecting a high level of technical understanding by participants – a significant shift from the getting-your-hands-dirty skills of roadside repairs and loading skills of the current and past expectations.
Participants will drive modern trucks with a high level of automation.
There will be a large number of electric trucks on the road.
Manual transmissions will be in the minority, a thing of the past.
We will see a further separation of skills.
A driver’s ancillary work will be more likely to be logistic and computer-driven.
There will be the beginning of autonomous trucks making modular deliveries.
Entrance to the industry will be staged through an extended vocational period where a young person will learn the full breadth of logistics skills and management.
Yeah, it will cost the industry investment, but that is the cost of the future. Licensing system Both government reviews and industry have found the current licensing system as wholly inadequate.
This broken wheel is something that needs to be fixed for the safety of all road users.
A major flaw is the loophole of a driver being able to jump from an HR (Heavy Rigid) to a Road Train MC (Multiple Combination) licence without any staging.
Today a would-be driver who has spent his or her life up until now with a C-class licence driving an automatic sedan can pay $1000 or so and in less than one day walk away with a Heavy Rigid licence.
That person does not have to go near a truck for the next 12 months and go back to the same driving school, spend another chunk of money, go through less than a day’s training and assessment and walk away with an MC licence.
This person can apply for a job driving a quad road train grossing 130 tonnes and be sharing the road with you and me after spending less than two days in a truck. That is the current law!
Meantime, a lot of good work is being done to increase the quality of driver training today.
The Volvo Group Australia supported the opening of a Truck Academy in 2017.
Driven by Volvo’s Australian boss, Peter Voorhoeve, the decision was made after the Swedish company commissioned a survey looking at 600 companies and 35,000 truck drivers Australia-wide.
As a result of the survey, Voorhoeve’s take on why younger people are not looking at a career in truck driving is: “it is not seen as a very cool job. There is still a poor public perception of truck drivers in the transport industry as a whole”.
“A lack of structured education or nationally recognised qualification within the industry has also been a problem.”
The survey found 46 per cent of transport companies are experiencing a shortage of professional truck drivers, with 88 per cent of respondents believing there is a negative image of truck drivers in Australia.
The driver training regime needs to be fixed now.
To attract younger people, road transport needs to paint an attractive and safe workplace of the future.
❝ We don’t believe the licensing system to get your heavy vehicle licence is strong enough.
— Peter Anderson
PASSING US BY: It’s time for the industry to ask the tough questions about why youngsters aren’t interested in a driving career.
It’s increasingly hard to attract youngsters to the road.
Volvo Australia boss Peter Voorhoeve.