Call for more foreign drivers, but with conditions attached


Peak WA trucking body, the Western Roads Federation (WRF), has written to federal transport minister Catherine King calling for urgent action to address the industry’s “critical” skills shortage in the state.

In the letter which outlines seven key recommendations, CEO Cam Dumesny says federation members estimate that the state is losing over $2.8 million a day due to truckie shortages, and that is just across the resources bulk haulage sector.

To help fix the problem, the WRF asks that the federal and state governments immediately place the category of truck drivers on the Priority Skills Migration List, with the following conditions attached:

  1. Developoment of agreed minimum employment conditions.
  2. Development and delivery of a basic training course, regardless of the driver’s country of origin.

Dumesny believes the safety concerns that many Australian truckies have regarding foreign drivers can be addressed by ensuring the training course delivers on the below.

  1. Independently verifies foreign drivers can competently drive the vehicle combinations listed on their licence.
  2. They are formally trained in WA’s heavy vehicle regulations.
  3. Finally, that they are trained in On Road Safe Trucking practices in Australia. Everything from how to acknowledge and respond to calls from escort pilots of wide loads to truck rest area etiquette.

“Even with effective access to the under employed, there are simply not enough people in WA to realistically train to meet the current freight task demands,” Dumesny added.

“Enabling our members to sponsor suitably skilled transport industry migrants into the State is needed. Currently such sponsorship is limited to only the Designated Area Migration Agreements [DAMA].”

Dumesny, however, said members who have applied to sponsor suitably skilled migrants through this scheme have been frustrated by prolonged processing delays by the Department of Immigration.

He tells King that the National Skills Commission is being misinformed about the true shortfall of drivers in the state, and beyond.

“The reasons behind this are assumed to be that National Skills Commission essentially uses online job adverts to determine skills shortages.

“For a combination of reasons, many transport companies in WA have long given up on using online job adverts. With one member who requires in excess of 150 MC drivers now just posting a single generic advert online, with the numbers of actual drivers needed not even listed.”

The other six recommendations from the WRF to King are:

  1. That the federal government work with industry and other stakeholders to identify and mitigate barriers to training and employment for marginalised groups.
  2. That off set funding of up to 30 per cent be provided to accelerate in-house training and employment programs by large/corporate companies.
  3. Consideration be given to removing taxation barriers to the employment of people on full or part pensions.
  4. That federal assistance be considered to helping support joint TAFE and industry training programs for operations staff.
  5. That the federal government works with industry to help support the development of a program that helps industry leaders adapt to change and the increasingly multi-modal nature of the transport.
  6. That the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers’ Meeting direct a national effort towards prioritising the removal of productivity barriers in the road transport industry and its interfaces with other modes.

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