Volvo Group to tackle driver shortage

By: Greg Bush


Technology-wise, trucks have never been better, but who’s going to drive them in the future?

Volvo Group to tackle driver shortage
Volvo Group Australia CEO sought feedback from customers on how to entice new blood into the trucking industry.

 

With the transport task expected to double by year 2030, the issue of Australia’s ageing driver workforce has reached beyond the concerns of transport companies alone.

This dearth of young people viewing road transport as a career opportunity has led truck manufacturer Volvo Group Australia (VGA) to look at a strategy to entice newcomers to the industry.

VGA recruited consultancy company Clemenger BBDO to survey 20 of its customers to gather statistics and data on the driver issue. Not surprisingly, the initial results revealed that the trucking industry has an image problem.

Peter Voorhoeve, VGA’s president and CEO, says 45 percent of the customers surveyed had a problem finding enough drivers in good quantity. That figure increased to 75 percent when it came to seeking quality drivers.

Voorhoeve says the standard slogan commonly seen on the back of trailers, ‘without trucks Australia stops’ should be replaced by ‘without drivers Australia stops’.

"Australia as a country is continually growing; 100,000 to 200,000 people per year enter the country," Voorhoeve says.

"They all need to eat, so this will make the transport task grow.

"From an equipment point of view that’s not an issue, but where we see the transport task growing we don’t see the driver population growing, or renewing."

As well as the population increase, Voorhoeve cites the growing e-commerce industry that is driving transport up, notably the purchase of goods, including food and beverages, online.

"Driver availability is a serious issue that we really need to look at as a society, and driver image is actually the reason why we have that problem."

More than hiring drivers, Voorhoeve says transport companies are looking for ambassadors. As well as having the correct licence, a clean sheet and mechanical knowledge, drivers need to be professional, patient and show on-road courtesy.

"Our customers say drivers should tolerate poor car drivers, which I think is fantastic because you then come to the point where the public perception of today changes," he says.

"The general perception of truck drivers can be quite negative, but it’s not fair. It is an outdated and unwarranted image.

"There is a discrepancy between the perception and the reality. Nowadays truck drivers wear smart uniforms, the trucks are technological masterpieces, there is a lot of safety, and the best drivers are truck drivers."

Another early step in VGA’s driver promotion strategy was to seek out Australian Trucking Association award winner Heather Jones, co-founder of the Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls.

According to Voorhoeve, Jones has waiting list of 500 women looking for truck driving work.

"It’s such a beautiful and a fantastic initiative that she has," he says.

"Fifty percent of Australians are female, but only 5 per cent of truck drivers are female. Why should women not drive?

"We’re going to cooperate with Heather, not just by giving her cheque or something like that, but we’re going to intensely cooperate with her, and that is our first concrete step in helping to change the image of truck drivers."

Volvo Group Australia intends to finalise its driver recruitment strategy during this year’s Melbourne Truck Show.

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