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Prime Mover Magazine

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Warren Clark

Addressing an ageing industry

November 2017

It’s no secret that the transport industry is starting to feel the burden of an ageing workforce.

The average age of Australia’s truck drivers is now 53 years, and many operators are already finding it challenging to recruit new drivers. Unless we address the problem, it’s fair to say we’re an industry on the verge of an employment crisis.

The solution appears simple on the surface – encourage younger people into the industry. However, with few members from Generation Y quick to enlist, it’s clear we need to better understand what is driving them away.

NatRoad delved into the topic headfirst at our 2017 Conference. Our specialist diversity panellists discussed a number of topics, including the bad name the trucking industry has developed. Our panellists noted that they believe the industry is in need of a facelift, as truck driving is not seen as an attractive career option for the youth of today.

Could it be possible that our own belittling of the industry is one of the biggest roadblocks to our future? According to our speakers, that could be the case. They proposed we all play a part in repairing our reputation. A first step we can all take is by addressing ourselves not as ‘just another trucker’, but as ‘transport professionals’, transforming the job into a profession. The dialogue has to change.

Interestingly, unlike many of us in older generations, the panel felt that the road freight industry has great potential for a young person. Pointing to generous pay packets and great job security, the panellists were far less put off than those of us who remember the ‘old days’.

Our panel also raised recognition as a motivating factor. The speakers discussed how the motivations of the next generation differ, with many millennials having grown up in a household where their opinions and input were encouraged. They want to be heard and also to contribute to success, rather than simply getting on and doing the job.

This motivation is one of the reasons NatRoad works to reward the youth of our industry. Alongside our annual Youth Driver of the Year Award, we’ve also implemented youth sponsorships for the Technical and Maintenance Conference (TMC) in Melbourne. These opportunities are a great way for our members to recognise and celebrate their workforce, without having to resource it internally.

NatRoad’s Youth Driver of the Year winner, Zachary Appleton from Murrell’s Freight Services, was asked his thoughts on the topic. He explained that young people would be surprised with how much they can earn as a driver, adding that it is a stable industry once you get a permanent job as a driver compared to many alternatives, such as mining. He originally decided to become a driver due to his love of trucks – he never thought he’d be driving a B-double after only 18 months in the industry.
Whilst it seemed like an easy conclusion for Zachary, as an industry we can’t rely on the next generation of truck lovers to come pouring in without a little effort from our end. Although we have begun taking steps in the right direction, there is still a long way to travel.

Addressing this issue will remain a clear focus at NatRoad. Until a long-term solution is in place, we will continue to promote and encourage youth in transport. Not only will we target the drivers of tomorrow, but also the drivers of today, encouraging them to change the dialogue in the industry. Together, we can all play a part in improving negative perceptions and solving one of our biggest threats.

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