Attracting the next generation of drivers
With an annual revenue of over $100 billion, Australia's transport industry moves everything from agricultural produce and consumer goods to bulk commodities and machinery.
But a lack of age, gender and racial diversity poses a serious problem for the future of our trucking sector.
The AIS 2018 Transport and Logistics Skills Forecast shows that the average age of an Australian truck driver is 47, and only 15 per cent of Australia's heavy vehicle workforce is under the age of 30.
This means we have more drivers retiring than new workers coming in.
At the same time, Australia's domestic freight is expected to grow at a faster rate than population growth.
With the driver shortage well in affect, it will only get more dire, and the consequences for all Australian sectors will be felt across the board.
Now's the time to attract the next generation of workers driving our economy.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
While there's been a lot of effort from leaders in the industry to change old-school perceptions, the trucking industry still has a negative public image.
Last year's Women in Transport report by Teletrac Navman showed the sector is still seen as a "boy's club", impacting the number of women that choose to become truck drivers.
Despite the fact that three out of four Australian workers support ethnically diverse workplaces, many members of the public still view the transport industry as a white-dominated sector and, sadly, stories of racially-intolerant truck drivers do little to twist this narrative.
It's not just a lack of gender or racial diversity impacting the image of the heavy vehicle workforce.
Long working hours paired with low pay, being isolated on the road for days at a time and unsafe conditions are all commonly held beliefs that prevent young people from wanting to enter the trucking industry.
With little promotion of the importance of trucking to Australia's economy, many students leaving school don't see trucking as a long-term career option, and if they do, it's just a means to an end.
Julie Russell, Australian Trucking Association (ATA) board member, says the industry needs to showcase the various jobs and career paths available for young adults and high school students.
"There are so many opportunities in the transport industry, it's just that people don't think of that when they leave school".
CREATING A DIVERSE WORKFORCE
As a potential driver shortage threatens to bring the nation's economy to a grinding halt, the government is already looking at ways to attract young people to the transport industry.
The Victorian government currently supports a driver safety training scheme by the Victorian Transport Association, an initiative that's already brought 75 new truck drivers into the sector. Designed for those leaving school, the eight-day course allows drivers to obtain their heavy vehicle license on the first day, with the remaining seven days dedicated to preparing them for a career on the road.
There are also several industry bodies for women working in the male-dominated trucking workforce. For over 20 years, Transport Women Australia supported women working across all aspects of the transport industry, even offering scholarships that make it easy for young women to enter the field.
At the start of the year, the ATA teamed up with Teletrac Navman to launch a ground-breaking initiative that celebrates diversity of all kinds across the sector.
The Driving Change Diversity Program highlights several diversity champions working in the industry, while equipping businesses with the tools they need to increase diversity in their workforce.
ATA Chair Geoff Crouch said that the core aim of the program is to "showcase diversity champions to the trucking industry and wider community, promoting positive perception of industry and encouraging new entrants into the workforce."
TURNING THE TIDE WITH TECH
Advancements in technology and changes in industry regulation have placed a greater importance on driver wellbeing and road safety than ever before.
Telematics solutions like Electronic Work Diaries allow drivers to self-manage fatigue by recording their work and rest times, automatically calculating when it's time to take a break. Designed to work in even the most remote areas of the country, EWDs take the guesswork out of complying with fatigue rulesets, making every trip a safe one.
Other fleet management solutions, like electronic pre-trip checklists, help to ensure a vehicle is in the best condition possible.
When performing a routine check before embarking on a long journey, drivers can alert those in the back office of a potential fault, before it becomes a serious safety risk.
Teletrac Navman's Telematics Benchmark Report found that telematics has reduced driver incidents by nearly 50 per cent.
Not only does vehicle telematics make life safer for truck drivers, but the use of cutting-edge technology makes the sector more exciting and appealing to a younger, tech-savvy generation.
While there's still plenty of room for progress towards a workforce that reflects the diversity of Australia's population, the transport industry is already making tracks.
Through innovative technology, driver training programs and industry initiatives, the sector can shatter outdated public perception and attract the next generation of truck drivers.