HOW TO SOLVE THE DRIVER CRI­SIS

Younger peo­ple are shun­ning driv­ing jobs

Big Rigs - - FRONT PAGE - Bruce Honey­will

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

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

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.

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