WA trucking boss Cam Dumesny finally got an answer from the Minister of Employment Stuart Robert about why trucking was left off the latest Priority Skilled Immigration List – and it wasn’t what he expected to hear.
“We received a letter back effectively stating that we need to provide proof there is an actual shortage [of industry workers],” the dumbfounded CEO of the Western Roads Federation told members in a recent bulletin.
“The National Skills Council (no one seems to have heard of them) has advised him there is no shortage.”
With no national database or stats that provide this kind of information, Dumesny has now asked members to help him argue the case by providing the following details in an email.
How many job vacancies are currently open for the MC drivers, heavy vehicle mechanics, and other roles, and below, and how long have the posts been open.
Dumesny estimates that on the score of skilled drivers alone the state is short of at least 1000 truckies, a number sending shivers through the state’s grain sector which, by all reports, is on track for a bumper harvest.
“It’s so desperate over here,” Dumesny tells Big Rigs. “We don’t have enough workers for the mines, retail distribution, the list goes on and on.
“We need drivers, and if they happen to be from overseas, let’s train them properly.
“Don’t get me wrong, our preference is that we train locals, but it takes four years to train a mechanic and we don’t have that time.”
WA is also leading the way with recruiting and training drivers up to the HR level, but that doesn’t get them behind the wheel of a quad in the Pilbara fast enough, he admits.
“We’re struggling to find a solution from the HC to the MC level because companies are so tight [for resources] that they can’t release them for a week or two of the extra training we need to give them.
“The whole licensing training system is currently a balls-up in this country.
“If someone goes off and does a HR course for example, it basically teaches them to steer a truck and abide by the road rules, but they have no experience. They also don’t have their load restraint ticket, or all those other tickets they’re meant to have.
“You and I can go and get our HR licence tomorrow but that doesn’t make us a truck driver.”
Dumesny said the issue has got so dire in WA that the state government has now slowed down some of its projects in order to release some of the workforce back into the mining and construction sectors.
But rather than seeing the pandemic as a further impediment to a fix, Dumesny is hopeful that it will have the opposite effect, sooner than later.
“What is annoying me more is that as an industry, collectively we’ve underpinned the economy.
“They can have lockdowns, and all the rest of it, but what they forget is that without transport delivery food, medicines and all the other essentials that people buy, how much trust would there be in a lockdown?
“Implicitly, the whole basis of a lockdown is assumed on the basis that transport can continue to put food on the shelves.
“It’s time to raise our profile to show our important our industry is.”