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Gas industry hears of looming driver crisis

DECA manager pleads for industry to demand higher standards.

 

The national heavy vehicle driver shortage is plunging towards a crisis point, a gas industry gathering has been told.

The squeeze facing transportation, whereby a cohort of skilled drivers is retiring and the new generation are less skilled as traditional sources of candidates dry up, comes as parts of the broader gas industry complain they struggle to find registered training organisations able to undertake the requisite education.

The latest in a series of transport industry warnings was delivered by DECA business manager Warren Smith to Gas Energy Australia’s national forum, Gas 2014, in Melbourne.

Smith underlines a situation where, over the past three years, the number of those passing heavy vehicle licence tests has fallen, leading to fewer skills in the industry and more employees entering who are not suitable.

In response, DECA is in the planning stage of a graduated driver skills program with the aim of creating a nationally recognised though informal qualification.

Saying he was there to make a “plea for the education of drivers” and for the use of older drivers as driver mentors before being lost to the industry, Smith believes that big industry players must back the push for higher driver standards for that to occur.

“I’d like to see the transport industry come together to demand greater competency,” he says.

He expresses concern that the bar for a heavy vehicle licence is not high enough but acknowledges that with fewer drivers available in future, the issue is difficult.

Asked if the traditional solution of importing skills is underway, Smith believes it is but is unsure if it will work well or without safety impacts.

Having been to source countries, he doubts many driver instructors there will gain driver qualifications in Australia.

“Having said that, if the person has the right qualities and desire, we can teach them to do the job properly,” Smith says.

Regarding ensuring the right candidate is employed, Tim Jensen of Blu Logistics says those who fail psychometric tests do not drive the company’s vehicles.

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