06/06/2014 - 15:48

Skills shortage a brake on trucks

06/06/2014 - 15:48

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A decade-long shortage of truck drivers in the Pilbara has exacerbated poaching within the industry and sparked calls for companies to invest in driver training.

Skills shortage a brake on trucks
BIG RIG: Competition for truck drivers with dangerous goods licences is intense, particularly for Pilbara operations. Photo: Attila Csaszar

A decade-long shortage of truck drivers in the Pilbara has exacerbated poaching within the industry and sparked calls for companies to invest in driver training.

For truck drivers with dangerous goods licences, the stakes are even higher.

Transport Workers Union Western Australia spokesman Paul Aslan said Toll Mining Services, based in Kewdale, was currently advertising for 40 dangerous goods drivers.

“There is definitely a shortage and some companies are poaching other drivers,” Mr Aslan told Business News.

Western Australia Road Transport Association chief executive Ian King said recent rumours of companies such as Linfox, Centurion and Toll outbidding each other to attract dangerous goods drivers were hard to validate, but would not surprise him if confirmed.

Linfox denies it has offered free international flights as an employment incentive, while Centurion and Toll declined to comment on what ‘extras’ they offered.

“I know there are a lot of inducements being offered,” Mr King said.

“There is some very big desperation in the Pilbara to get people up there, and nothing would surprise me.”

Mr Aslan has criticised the Australian Trucking Association’s appeal to the federal government that truck drivers be added to the skilled occupations on the 457 visa list.

Mr Aslan slammed the move, saying transport companies had an obligation to train local drivers.

“The last thing we need is for someone to put up a case for 457 visa people to come in from other countries. We totally reject (the ATA’s) appeal,” he said.

Success Transport owner and former 40under40 winner Heather Jones said she had spent more than a decade advocating for the industry to increase its uptake of young and female drivers and to provide training.

“We have a huge gap between once you get your licence and training. There is no training,” Ms Jones told Business News.

“Truck drivers don't grow on trees, so you can't shake the non-existent tree for more truck drivers, we need to grow our own or train our own.”

She said while truck drivers in the Pilbara with multi-combination licences to carry two or more trailers cleared between $2,000 and $3,000 a week, companies still had to offer generous accommodation stipends to attract drivers.

It is understood that, in addition to salaries, Centurion provides its Port Hedland-based drivers with multi-combination licences a $600 per week housing allowance.

“It’s a pretty hard trot, for eight months of the year its 40 plus degrees. We’re not just sitting in the truck driving it, we’re loading, hooking up trailers, pulling dollies out … it’s really hard work,” Ms Jones said.

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