Truck drivers flee to mines in search of riches

Truck drivers are leaving the industry in droves to secure lucrative work in the mining sector

Truck drivers flee to mines in search of riches
Truck drivers flee to mines in search of riches
By Brad Gardner | April 19, 2011

More and more truck drivers are leaving the industry to secure lucrative work in the mining sector, forcing some operators to take drastic action to try and retain staff.

The Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council’s latest industry snapshot reveals the skilled labour pool in trucking is diminishing as operators lose the battle to keep good drivers.

The report says local delivery drivers, managers, B-double drivers, schedulers and dangerous goods operators are in hot demand, but trucking cannot compete when mines are offering entry-level drivers with no experience $120,000 a year.

It says West Australian and North Queensland operators are under significant pressure to the point where they are forced to increase wages to unsustainable levels or risk losing key personnel.

"It can be difficult for employers who are not associated with mining and construction to attract and retain workers at financially viable rates," the report says.

"Employers in this sector express concern that the movement of skilled workers to the mining and construction industries is expected to continue or even accelerate, which will result in a higher turnover of workers."

The Council says many employers are now trying to tap segments of the labour market that have traditionally been ignored.

"These other sources include older workers, women, low experienced unemployed, indigenous groups and recent migrants who possess transferrable skills," it says.

The Council says businesses are also implementing flexible work arrangements, mentoring programs and skill development schemes to encourage employees to stay. However, the initiatives are eating into bottom lines.

"Associated training costs are high, and the requirement for ongoing mentoring is greater than when recruiting skilled workers," the Council says.

It claims many operators report a constant cycle of investing in training, only for the employee to leave once they are qualified.

"The costs associated with this cycle are burdensome and have a significant impact on organisations already operating on low profit margins," the report says.

Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council Chairman Robert Adams says the road and rail sectors will experience losses throughout 2011 as drivers chase work in the mines.

"The surge in infrastructure development and reconstruction projects following the Queensland floods will likely increase the flow of people out of the industry," he adds.

In its report, the Council says transport and logistics must do more to attract women if it is serious about securing a sustainable workforce. It says the current gender ratio of men to women is 78 percent to 22 percent.

Trucking operators also report trying to obtain insurance for young drivers and achieving licence upgrades under the graduated licensing system as barriers to entry.

"The impact of this is intensified by vacancies created by retirements from an ageing workforce that are not being matched by new entrants," the Council reports.

The report says most operators avoid training employees because of the cost involved, lost productivity due to time spent training and a concern that competitors will poach workers once they are qualified.

Almost 50 percent of those surveyed by the Council reported that regulatory compliance was the main driver behind investment in training, with only 10 percent saying it was to retain staff.

Industry associations have in the past pushed for action to address skill shortages. The South Australian Freight Council Chairman John McArdle says more young people need to be encouraged to enter the transport and logistics sector to plug gaping skill shortages.

He has supported the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) interactive Road Ahead exhibition that visits secondary schools as an important plank in promoting the different careers available in the industry.

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