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Ipswich council wins exemption on women truck drivers

Female participation reports feature in gaining equal opportunity legal flexibility on training


Ipswich City Council used two recent reports on the dearth of women truck drivers to gain a Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) ruling on its training effort.

The reports are Transport Women Australia Ltd’s (TWAL’s) ‘Working Women in Transport – A Snapshot, The Follow Up’ and Teletrac Navman’s ‘Driving Change: Transport Industry’s Gender Equality Gap Revealed’ report.

The council is now exempt for three years from relevant sections of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 in relation only to the advertising and recruitment of waste truck drivers to be employed for a training program to obtain a heavy rigid licence.

The ruling also took into account relevant provisions of the Human Rights Act 2019 (HRA).

The council submitted that:

  • It considers the proposed targeted recruitment of women is a welfare measure within the meaning of s 15(5) of the HRA because the targeted recruitment measures are for the purpose of assisting or advancing women disadvantaged because of discrimination and further contended that such measures do not constitute discrimination
  • Women are recognised as being under-represented across the transport industry and, in the specific case of the Council, there were only two female drivers from a cohort of just over 50 drivers
  • There are often socio-economic barriers faced by women seeking to meet the heavy rigid (HR) licence prerequisite and that there are significant costs involved in obtaining a HR licence, including specialised lessons, the time involved for the lessons, as well as the cost of the licence itself
  • Several of thecCouncil’s female cleaners and administrative staff have expressed interest in becoming waste services truck drivers and have cited difficulties in the terms of the time required to obtain a HR licence, as well as the cost involved in lessons and in obtaining such a licence
  • By reference to the survey results contained in a document entitled ‘Working Women in Transport – A Snapshot, The Follow Up’, of those that responded to the survey, only 17.5 per cent of those working in the transport industry were women, and of those, only 6.5 per cent were women in driving positions
  • By reference to a report contained entitled Driving Change: Transport Industry’s Gender Equality Gap Revealed, the transport industry rated as one of the lowest in Australia for gender diversity in that 26.4 per cent of the workforce were women, far lower that the all industry average of 46.9 per cent
  • Given the costs involved in truck driving lessons and licence costs, the Council considers that socio-economic factors present barriers to many women seeking to become truck drivers and in this regard, the Council referred to: − the Australia’s Gender Pay Gap Statistic 2020, issued by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, which advises that Australia’s national gender pay gap shows that women were on average paid 14 per cent less than men; − 2016 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that single female parent families represent 82 per cent of single-parent families, that the over-representation of women as sole parents creates further employment barriers to women entering the workforce as truck drivers because their increased caring responsibilities present challenges to having the time for further training to gain a HR licence, as well as the financial implications of being a single parent family
  • The Women Driving Transport Careers initiative at Hanson Australia, which involves free training provided to trainees to achieve a HR licence, the offer of full-time employment where no previous heavy driving experience was necessary and trainees being supported by mentors (which is similar to the approach proposed by the Council if its application is granted), helped that organisation achieve an almost 300 per cent increase in female participation in its driver group.

Read how the Women Driving Transport Careers initiative was launched, here  

TWAL chair Jacquelene Brotherton is buoyed by the outcome.

“That is great news,” Brotherton tells ATN.

“To see our report used in this successful bid is very gratifying. It is the reason we do this type of research.

“We need to encourage more women into the industry and have been doing this through our Women Driving Transport Careers female-only driver training program.

“To have the Ipswich Council succeed in their equal opportunity exemption will pave the way for other companies to participate.”

Teletrac Navman has been approached for comment.


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