The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has renewed its calls for heavy vehicle transport drivers to be added to Australia’s Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List in order to help address the chronic shortage of drivers.
Last week, the National Skills Commission published its 2022 Skills Priority List, with ‘truck driver (general)’ included as one of 129 occupations that weren’t considered to be in shortage is 2021, but apparently now is.
But making that list is unlikely to result in any immediate change for the industry. In order for any serious short-term help in the form of overseas drivers, ‘truck driver (general)’ would need to be among the 44 on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List.
Applications from people in these occupations are fast-tracked through Commonwealth and state and territory visa processing schemes.
“The 2022 Skills Priority List simply confirms what everybody in transport has been saying for years, which is that our industry is desperate for professional heavy vehicle drivers, not just because of the pandemic, but because of our ageing workforce and an antiquated licencing regime that recognises experience over qualifications,” said VTA CEO Peter Anderson.
“Overhauling heavy vehicle driver licencing to make it possible for young, qualified people to operate larger vehicles will help to resolve the domestic shortage of workers.
“However, for Australia to attract competent and qualified heavy vehicle drivers from overseas in the short-term, we need to change our skilled migration program to prioritise this occupation over others.”
The National Skills Commission Key Findings Report confirmed occupation shortages were most acute in Professional and Skill Level 3 occupations among Technicians and Trade Workers. Heavy Vehicle Driver is a category 4 occupation, with Anderson saying this needed to change for it to be prioritised over others.
“Re-categorising heavy vehicle driving as a Skill Level 3 occupation would give qualified, professional overseas drivers that are considering re-locating to Australia permanently or temporarily, a deserved advantage over people in other occupations where there aren’t chronic shortages,” Anderson said.
“Our immigration rules need to change because driver shortages are also a problem for other countries, and not just Australia. Australia is competing against countries like Canada, the United States and the UK for drivers, and if we gave the occupation a higher priority and recognised it as the profession it is, it would certainly help to support Australia’s pandemic recovery.”
One of the more practical outcomes of the recent Jobs and Skills Summit was the government’s decision to raise the cap on permanent migration for the first time in a decade to help fill workforce shortages.
“It’s terrific that the government is increasing the cap by 35,000 but we want to ensure that foreign heavy vehicle drivers that who aspire to work in Australia are recognised for their professional skills and qualifications,” Anderson said.
“While immigration alone won’t solve worker shortages in transport, it can certainly provide a short-term boost, whilst supporting the view we are trying to push that driving a heavy vehicle is a profession.”