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COVID-19 compliance impacting road freight operators

transport curfews freight

Compliance measures and vaccine mandates for freight workers are continuing to challenge road transport operators according to a new industry survey.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) queried more than 75 small, medium and large operators carrying freight ranging from chemicals and fuel, construction goods, agricultural, food, groceries and general merchandise.

Respondents were asked about a range of issues that have emerged during the pandemic to understand how regulatory adjustments might assist an industry trying to overcome supply chain pressures leading into Christmas and beyond.

Among the key findings:

  • 84 per cent of operators said COVID restrictions had negatively impacted their business;
  • 62 per cent of operators have lost an average of 4 per cent  of their drivers because of mandatory vaccinations, with one operator surveyed losing half his drivers;
  • 95 per cent of operators are experiencing a shortage of drivers, with nearly 1,800 vacancies in the responding companies alone.
  • 90 per cent of operators said they would support regulatory changes enabling 18-year-olds to be trained to attain a heavy vehicle licence.

Peter Anderson, VTA CEO says the survey echoed concerns the Association had been advocating for months and that unless action was taken to help the freight industry attract new drivers, supply chains would continue to be vulnerable, putting upward pressure on consumer costs.

“When 95 per cent of operators say they can’t find enough drivers, it confirms more needs to be done by governments in partnership with industry to recruit people,” he says.

“Victoria’s heavy vehicle licensing system is broken and we need urgent action to attract young people to our rapidly ageing profession. Nine in 10 operators said they would support a licensing regime that would professionally train and employ 18-year-old school leavers to drive a heavy vehicle. The government must act on this information, or the shortage will get worse as older drivers retire, with the inevitable consequences being higher consumer prices at the till.”

Paul Freestone, Freestone’s Transport Managing Director says the labour shortage is the worst he’s seen in his 50 years in transport.

“Fuel and labour are the biggest costs for operators and if we don’t increase our pool of drivers costs will increase extraordinarily,” he says.

“The single biggest impediment to recruiting new drivers is an out-of-date licensing system that prevents the industry from training young, competent people for a career as a professional driver. I’d love to be able to hire a qualified young person for a lifelong career in transport but under the current licensing regime there is no provision for this.”

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