Australia, Companies, Distribution, Freight, Logistics, Materials Handling, News, Supply Chain, Trucks

Solving the truck driver shortage

Road freight is expected to grow 56 per cent by 2040 in Australia, according to TMX analysis.

TMX Transform’s Director of Supply Chain, Jamie Dixon, explains to MHD why more than a boost in immigration is needed to help solve Australia’s truck driver shortage.

The immigration surge may seem like welcome news given the shortage of skilled heavy vehicle truck drivers in Australia.

This labour shortage in trucking is persistent. The freight, logistics, and supply chain industry accounts for 8.6 per cent of Australia’s GDP, and more than two-thirds of non-bulk domestic freight is carried on roads[1].

Truck drivers are business critical. They are the glue keeping the country’s supply chains running. But inadequate staffing levels can represent major business problems with flow-on impacts, compromising service delivery, timeframes, and customer experience. Boosting driver numbers via immigration is sometimes posed as a possible solution.

Australia’s migration rebound is well and truly here after years of closed borders across 2020 and 2021. For the 2022-2023 financial year, Australia net gained 518,000 migrants, with arrivals increasing almost two-thirds (73 per cent) compared to 12 months earlier[2]. Not only are more migrants arriving, but less are leaving our shores, with migrant departures decreasing to 219,000 from 223,000 (two per cent).

But of the immigrants who find work in the road freight industry, most are entry-level, driving vans and small trucks.

A long-haul problem

The main issue is the shortage of long haul and heavy vehicle drivers, and there are multiple contributors to this situation, including Australia’s ageing population. The average age of long-haul drivers is around 50, and the retirement age is mid-50s.

As of February 6, 2024, there are 20,473 truck driver jobs advertised on[3]. With about 200,000 truck drivers working in Australia, online job advertisements from just one website – which does not account for all required roles – are looking to increase the workforce by at least 20 per cent. Twelve months ago, the numbers were similar[4].

Jamie Dixon, Director of Supply Chain, TMX Transform. Image: TMX Transform.
Jamie Dixon, Director of Supply Chain, TMX Transform. Image: TMX Transform.

The United Kingdom famously demonstrated the impact on trucking when immigration policy significantly changes. Brexit, the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union, meant thousands of foreign truck drivers departed the UK, with their supply chain, and therefore Brits, suffering the impact of shortages as a result.

In Australia, the opposite is being touted as a saving grace – that an immigration surge may be the answer to the problem. But the numbers don’t necessarily back it up.

Looking into the crystal ball

An industry-wide capacity correction requires multiple things to happen. Professionalising truck driving may boost numbers and attract more candidates to the industry, according to Australian Industry Standards (AIS) and others, with various heavy vehicle apprenticeships now available or in different stages of submission and review across the other states and territories.

In a review of heavy vehicle rest areas TMX completed last year for Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds (HHTS), a non-for-profit which aims to improve the wellbeing of national transport, warehousing, and logistics workers, TMX found there are many areas for improvement to attract workers to the profession, such as establishing a national heavy vehicle rest area strategy, including a minimum set of standards for heavy vehicle rest areas. The road and rest areas are the workplace of truck drivers, and they must be treated with the same level of attention as a white-collar office.

Road freight is expected to grow by 56 per cent by 2040 in Australia, the TMX report found. This is a challenge that will not go away on its own, but the businesses who rely on truck drivers can help shape the solution.

Jamie Dixon, Director of Supply Chain, TMX Transform

[1] Freight & supply chains, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts

[2] Overseas migration, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Dec 2023 – Overseas Migration, 2022-23 financial year | Australian Bureau of Statistics (

[3] Truck Driver Jobs in All Australia – SEEK

[4] The truck driver shortage in Australia – Shell

For more information on TMX Transform, click here.

Send this to a friend