The trucking industry and the Government’s Sector Workforce Engagement Programme (SWEP) have joined forces to get as many as 1000 more drivers into the road freight transport industry nationwide.
The greatest shortages are in the Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Canterbury regions.
Auckland-based National Road Carriers surveyed its members last year and found they required 744 more drivers.
“That probably translates to more than 1000 needed nationwide,” said the Road Freight Transport Group’s chairman, Steve Doughty from Auckland. The group includes nationwide representation with the other members being Grant Madill (Auckland), Graham Sheldrake (Tokoroa), John Anderson (Wellington), and Peter McCauley (Timaru).
The group has operational support from David Aitken (National Road Carriers), Christchurch-based Dennis Robertson (NZ Road Transport Association) and Dave Boyce (NZ Trucking Association), the nation’s three trucking organisations.
“We see this as a significant step in the right direction,” said Aitken. “The transport industry recognises more must be done around the driver shortage problem than where we are right now, and the only way to get anywhere was to band together.”
The construction, infrastructure, online shopping and export booms are all driving the demand for more drivers.
Former British police officer Dunedin-based Steve Divers, who has a background in compliance, permitting and project management, has been appointed by industry and SWEP to lead the recruitment initiative.
The cost of the initiative will be shared by transport, through its coalition of industry associations, and SWEP.
Divers’ first task will be finding ways to make it easier to become a truck driver. “The transport industry provides fantastic opportunities for young people with business acumen and ambition.”
The entry points to the industry and the training programmes should be examined, said Divers. “We have to understand what’s working and where improvements can be made.”
“Schools are an untapped resource,” he said. “Most people currently training for a Class 5 truck licence are over the age of 25 and quite often in their 30s and 40s.”
Divers said existing training schemes to gain a Class 2 licence to drive a light rigid truck under 18,000kgs gross combined weight (GCW) and a logbook course to record working hours were relatively cheap compared with many other career courses.
Divers’ job is to drive programmes that address the shortage of Class 5 drivers where the need is greatest – for the biggest truck and trailer units weighing up to over 44 tonnes being commonplace – and generate interest from people to consider truck driving as a career option.
SWEP has been set up by several government agencies to improve employer’s access to reliable, skilled staff, to cover a wide range of industries.
The partnership came about after a 2016 industry commissioned strategy review that was accepted by NRC, the RTA and the New Zealand Trucking Association, and included in the SWEP programme.
The strategy is likely to focus on encouraging more drivers to get Class 2 licences and encouraging them to seek the more advanced licences to drive the heaviest trucks on the road.