Western Roads Federation is lobbying the WA Government to open the borders to truckies from the east to plug the chronic driver shortage across a multitude of sectors.
WRF CEO Cam Dumesny said there was already a major shortfall before the coronavirus hit but the issue has been exacerbated by the state’s hard-line border stand.
“We’re in a whole world of hurt to be honest,” he told Big Rigs.
“We’re now working with the mining and agriculture sectors to get a more co-ordinated response from government but when the premier has a 91% approval rating, it’s a hard argument to win.”
Dumesny knows of one mining member in Kalgoorlie who has half his fleet parked up, he’s so desperate for drivers.
“If the borders were open I’m quite confident we could get the drivers here from the east because WA pays well, particularly in mining.”
State-wide, some 500 driver jobs are estimated to be going begging, with hundreds of rigs parked up with no one to drive them.
The situation is no better in the grain sector, which is due to hit its peak harvest season shortly.
WA Livestock and Rural Transport Association president David Fyfe believed if the state government refused to allow truck drivers from outside WA in – without having to isolate for two weeks either side – farmers would have to store their grain on-farm because the state’s fleet would not be able to keep up with the demand.
“If you’ve got farmers really geared highly taking off a lot of crop daily and used to transport coming in and keeping headers moving, those farmers are going to have to make a plan,” he told the Countryman.
“My suggestion is to bag it and give your contractor time to shift it later on.
“That will spread the work out so contractors — especially country contractors that rely hugely on farmers for yearly income — can manage it.”
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the state government expected to be able to announce details of a program proposal addressing the issue in the near future.
“The McGowan Government is working in partnership with the Western Roads Federation and other industry stakeholders to develop a program proposal to address a current shortage of heavy haulage drivers as a result of COVID-19,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dumesny and the WRF are taking steps to bridge the long-term skills shortage across all of the transport sectors.
WRF has appointed Barry Davis, the highly regarded and recently retired HR Manager for Road Trains Australia to project manage the skills and training solution.
“Having Barry gives us someone with the knowledge and passion to just focus on driving the training solution through,” said Dumesny.
WRF is developing and driving forward a complete restructured approach to training and development in the industry, how we recruit, how we train, how we upskill etc right through to how we enable the experienced operators approaching the end of their career to share their knowledge to the next generation.”
Saffioti said the state government had also developed a new, free heavy haulage course to encourage more people into the industry which launched in Collie this month, with enrolment at full capacity.
“We will continue to work collaboratively with industry and the training sector to ensure drivers have the opportunity to learn necessary skills and people looking to re-skill and work in the trucking industry have the opportunity to do so,” she said.