Pilbara Truckies Say More Local Training Needed

If you live in Western Australia's north chances are many of your daily needs arrive on a truck, but the industry is struggling to recruit enough drivers.

ABC Rural, by Lucie Bell, 13 January 2014

That could be fixed, according to a group of Pilbara-based truckies, if the industry made greater efforts to train locals.

The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls (PHHG) say with a little more training and mentoring, driver shortages in Western Australia could be addressed.

The move comes after the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) lodged a submission, campaigning to have "heavy vehicle drivers" added to the list of occupations eligible for 457 temporary skilled migrant visas.

Chair of the PHHG, Heather Jones, has been driving trucks for 20 years.

She says there is interest locally but not the mechanisms in place to foster it.

"This is in no way a witch hunt or anything like that... but our concern is we do have competent people wanting to learn, who know our road rules, can speak English clearly and it's not only that.

"In the Pilbara we've had some really hot days in the last couple of weeks and if you've come over straight from the UK, with minimal training as far as the weather goes, you're going to keel over behind the wheel."

Ms Jones has trained and mentored 20 drivers and is calling for transport companies to take on one trainee for every ten trucks on the road.

"We all, as an industry, have an obligation to train," she said.

"When you have a new driver, they're a blank canvas and you can train them to exactly your needs."

When asked about the cost and time needed to develop a sizeable pool of local drivers, Ms Jones conceded it would take time, but says the investment is worth it.

"If we bring 457 or foreign drivers in, what have they been trained on? They don't have the vehicle configurations we have in Australia.

"So once again, if they're brought in they still need training from that company.

“I believe there's a glass bull bar that women need to break down to get into the heavy vehicle industry.”

Lyndal Denny, road train driver for six months

"Wouldn't it be better to spend that training, hours and time with local people with limited experience."

Lyndal Denny is also a member of the PHHG, but she has only been driving road trains for six months.

She says she had a difficult time trying to break into the industry.

"We talk about the glass ceiling women have to break through in the business world, well I believe there's a glass bull bar that women need to break down to get into the heavy vehicle industry."

Ms Denny contacted 16 national transport companies in her pursuit of training and employment opportunities.

"Of those, only two were prepared to give a new driver a go," she said.

"The training and support has been amazing. I absolutely love it."

The ATA's submission to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency says, "Until the lack of adequate female-friendly amenities, flexible work hours and personal safety issues involved in driving trucks are addressed, many women will not believe trucking is an attractive profession."

Ms Denny says that is not the case at all.

"There is that perception that women just will not fit within the trucking industry generally.

"What I'm saying is yes we do, it certainly takes the right attitude but it is a very worthwhile and wonderful career path."

Click here to read the original article on ABC Rural.

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