Volvo availability report details driver shortages


Numbers in decline with entry barriers and poor public image despite their being economically crucial

Volvo availability report details driver shortages
Peter Voorhoeve has worked hard for the survey.

 

Australia is fast heading towards a truck driver numbers crunch in a form similar to the crisis unfolding in the US, a Volvo survey shows.

The ugly truth for the industry is that 52 per cent of respondents reported having issues attracting the quantity of drivers needed and 82 per cent have issues attracting the quality of drivers they expect.

"These issues are becoming a tangible problem for the industry, with 46 per cent of respondents experiencing a driver shortage right now," the report states.

The survey report highlights a stubbornly poor public perception of truck drivers and barriers to entry for younger drivers and women as core to the problem.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • truck driving failing to be perceived as a desirable profession due to being away from home, long hours, work/life balance, pay and negative perception in the mainstream media
  • barriers for younger drivers, such as limited training opportunities, no nationally recognised qualification, high cost of obtaining a heavy vehicle licence, limited progression of licence classes and limited flexibility in work hours
  • higher insurance premiums creating a barrier for employers to employ younger drivers.

The report, Professional Truck Driver Shortage: How driver availability impacts the transport industry & Australian society, is the result of a national research collaboration between Volvo Group Australia (VGA) and communications and research agency Clemenger BBDO.

It follows six months after the American Trucking Associations released its own report, Truck Driver Shortage Analysis 2015, which identified a shortfall in that country of 38,000 drivers in 2014 in an industry that employs 800,000 of them.

The Australian report, flagged heavily by VGA president and CEO Peter Voorhoeve, included in-depth phone interviews with 20 participants and an online quantitative survey of 547 industry representatives.

It shows that despite improving working conditions and industry innovations, the industry is still battling to combat negative public perception.

Pathways into the industry are unclear, with apprenticeships and TAFE courses lacking and the start age of 25 leading to a loss to other callings.

Where once family enterprises led to generational training and turnover, safety legislation means unofficial skills are deemed a risk by prospective employers while other options have yet to properly materialise.

The industry’s failure to get its reality across to the mainstream media sees 90 per cent or more respondents believing this leads fewer drivers, young people entering, the occupation’s lower appeal to women and a lack of diversity overall.

This failure is not for want of trying, with the industry undertaking a number of initiatives including:

  • the introduction of strict uniforms, or the application of certain restrictions in dress-codes, such as collared shirts, no singlets or no thongs
  • prioritising the aesthetics and performance of trucks through technology and innovation
  • promoting internal pride through internal awards, or public recognition
  • improving accountability through monitoring behaviours, such as dash cams, GPS, fatigue trackers and telematics systems
  • positioning drivers as their sales force and ambassadors, and hiring people that are fit for this role
  • promoting work-life balance to increase employee and satisfaction and potentially diversify the workforce
  • paying hourly rates.

Beyond that, research was done on attitudes towards the potential effectiveness of a trade accreditation program and on-the-job training.

Both were supported by two thirds of respondent or more, with the latter shading the former by a few percentage points on its likelihood in increasing driver availability, improving quality, increasing diversity and shifting negative driver image perceptions.

"It is imperative that quality investment and resources are allocated to the issue of driver availability and improving driver image," the report concludes.

"It is not just the responsibility of the industry, but the broader Australian population to help ensure the continued growth of this pillar of the Australian nation."

 

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