Prime Mover Magazine

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Warren Clark

Facing the issues of an ageing workforce

September 2018

The road transport industry in Australia has much to think about. With the average age of a truck driver in Australia at 47 and climbing, we need younger people to join the industry.

But encouraging young people to consider a trucking career continues to be a challenge. So where does that leave the $50 billion sector?

One in five working drivers are at retirement age and Australia Bureau of Statistics data shows that nearly half of the current workforce in the industry will be aged over 65 by 2026.* There is an urgent need to ensure that we step up and look for ways to solve this issue.

The Nature of the Problem

The transport and logistics industry added $39.95 billion to the Australian economy in 2017. The sector moves 30 per cent of all domestic freight, employs nearly half a million people and is projected to grow at a rate of 1.7 per cent per annum over the next five years through 2022-23.

One of the barriers to growth is, however, a driver shortage and a shortage of other skilled personnel. The ageing of the workforce has been one of the main reasons for the emergence of skills shortages. In the United States this has been dubbed the ‘silver tsunami.’

Regular sensationalist media reports about the involvement of trucks in fatal crashes, the industry’s poor perception in the broader community and red tape rules that surround the day-to day activities of drivers deter young people from taking roles in the road transport industry.

Way forward
To think that driver shortage is solely an Australian problem would be a mistake. Most countries including the U.K, U.S and Europe face a similar problem with fewer millennials considering a career in trucking.

It is time we change the industry’s poor perception in the broader community and actively look for ways to reduce the worker age-gap.

While there are measures we can take at an industry level to drive employment diversity, individual businesses must be proactive in filling vacancies.

Highlighting career pathways, flagging technological advances and positioning our industry as providing a viable career path is the key to attracting enthusiastic and committed job hunters.

Implementing enterprise level succession planning and developing viable recruitment strategies to prepare a newer generation of qualified workers is required. At the same time, NatRoad encourages members to think about phased retirement programs that, for example, allow retirement-eligible employees to work reduced schedules. That is why we recently concluded litigation to permit part-time employment under the Long-Distance  Award.

In our effort to find a solution to the driver shortage problem, NatRoad is working on a special project with a particular focus on drawing more young people to the sector and diversifying the workforce. More details about this project and its initial findings will be presented at the upcoming NatRoad Conference.

While a definitive solution to driver shortages is still a long way off, now is the time for the industry to act.
*IBISWorld Industry Report I4610, Road Freight Transport in Australia

Warren Clark
CEO, NatRoad

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