Australia’s trucking sector is a crucial cog in the economic machine, with nearly all industries across the country dependent on domestic freight transport. But lack of age diversity is an issue that’s threatening the future of the trucking industry.
The AIS 2018 Transport and Logistics Skills Forecast claims the average age of a commercial truck driver is 47, but less than 15 per cent of Australia’s trucking sector is under the age of 30. Drivers are retiring faster than young people can be hired.
At the same time, demand is growing. According to a report by Volvo Group, trucks are responsible for moving three-quarters of non-bulk domestic freight. This amount is expected to double by 2030, so we need to act now to attract younger drivers.
The Factors Behind Our Ageing Workforce
It’s no secret that trucking has an image problem. While the industry has done much to curb misconceptions in recent years, many younger people still associate truck driving with unsafe working conditions, long working hours and extended periods of isolation driving across the outback.
The findings from our Women in Transport campaign earlier this year highlighted that the industry is also still often seen as a “boy’s club”, limiting the number of young women that move into available roles.
Sadly, many young people don’t see the industry as a viable long-term career option. There isn’t significant promotion of the importance of the sector on the nation’s economy, many view the industry as unsafe and school-leavers aren’t aware of the varied career options available.
Peter Anderson, CEO at Victorian Transport Association (VTA), acknowledged that the sector’s image problem is hampering its own growth. “People don’t find it a sexy industry. They don’t see that they can build a good career and a lifestyle out of the heavy vehicle industry,” Mr Anderson said.
Bringing Trucking Into The Future
Despite its ‘unsafe’ public image, technology advancements in transport have meant that driver wellbeing and road safety can be easier to manage than ever before.
The integration of telematics into fleets has had a profound impact on driver safety in Australia’s trucking industry. According to our 2019 Benchmark Report, telematics has improved incident reduction from 23 per cent last year to 48 per cent, with speed prevention and fatigue monitoring the two biggest benefits of integrating telematics.
Telematics solutions like Electronic Work Diaries (EWDs), manage driver fatigue by recording a driver’s work and rest times during their trips, taking the guesswork out of complying with fatigue rulesets. Designed to work even in the most remote areas of the country, an EWD notifies drivers when they need to take a break, ensuring a safe and compliant trip.
Devices like In-Vehicle Monitoring Systems (IVMS) track vital information like the speed and routes of all vehicles in your fleet, no matter how remote. If someone in the back office is alerted a driver speeding, they can immediately notify the driver to curb poor performance, or use the data to coach operators on better on-road behaviour.
An IVMS offers insights into maintenance scheduling, while electronic pre-trip checklists let drivers alert fleet operators if any new or potential faults arise, before they become a serious hazard.
Not only do these advancements make the trucking industry safer for drivers, but the importance and integration of this breakthrough technology paints the sector as pioneering and cutting-edge, making it an exciting industry for a tech-savvy younger generation to enter.
Drawing Young People To the Industry
A driver shortage in the trucking industry could have significant effects on the nation’s economy, which the government is already acting on.
The Victorian government has thrown its support behind a driver safety training scheme run by the Victorian Transport Association (VTA), which so far has brought 75 new drivers into the sector. During the eight-day driving course, aimed at young people leaving school, drivers obtain their heavy vehicle license in the first half day of training and spend the remaining time preparing for their career.
Fleet operators want drivers with experience, something that young drivers lack, and this course gives young drivers real experience behind the wheel of a truck, equipping them for the rigours of a career in trucking.
There’s also a lot happening within the trucking industry to attract the next generation of drivers. Like the integration of tech solutions in driver cabins, solar-powered and electric trucks make trucking more exciting for a new generation of tech-savvy and environmentally aware employees.
Many businesses are also looking to introduce ground-breaking tech into their training processes – according to a 2018 AIS report, nearly a third of businesses in transport want to integrate virtual reality to improve OH&S.
Across the ocean, Volvo Trucks North America is investigating how it can implement artificial intelligence into a truck’s cabin to boost a driver’s situational awareness. We’re still a few years away before we see fully automated commercial trucks, but technology like AI-voice control would allow drivers to use telematic solutions hands free to ensure the driver always has their eyes on the road.
While there’s a lot of work needed to attract the next generation of drivers to Australia’s trucking sector, the industry is on its way. Through cutting-edge technology, government initiatives and a greater focus on driver safety, the industry can shatter pre-conceived notions holding it back.