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Tasmania transport industry tackles workforce shortages

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The peak body representing transport employers in Tasmania has identified two key challenges for the industry going forward.

New reports, to be released tomorrow by the Tasmanian Transport Association, found there was a shortage of heavy vehicle drivers and the industry would struggle to attract, recruit, develop and retain the workforce needed to meet both current freight demands and a predicted increase over the next three to five years.

The sector is also facing challenges when it comes to getting buy in from supply chain parties for managing risks such as speed, fatigue, vehicle standards and loading.

Tasmanian Transport Association executive director Michelle Harwood said it was crucial that all stakeholders became involved in addressing the challenges facing the industry.

“Transport is the backbone of the Tasmanian economy, facilitating growth in key sectors of construction, agriculture, aquaculture and exports,” Harwood said.

“As an island state an efficient freight network within Tasmania, and connections with interstate ports and freight hubs, is critical to the continued economic prosperity of Tasmanian businesses and the living standards of all Tasmanians.”

Harwood said the industry lacked a strong engagement with the education and training sector which compounded issues attracting and retaining drivers.

“Industry does the heavy lifting in terms of workforce development, with little support,” she said.

Barriers to recruitment include age restrictions for heavy vehicle driver licences, a perception the industry is not a desirable career path option and the lack of diversity.

“Transport and logistics is an industry of opportunity, with good rewards and conditions across a range of occupations” she said.

There are also health and wellbeing concerns with truck drivers in Australia having a 13-fold higher risk of dying at work than other employees.

“A heavy vehicle driver licence does not fully prepare a person to enter the industry,” Harwood said.

“It does not include the other skills needed to be job ready such as an understanding of relevant regulations, load restraint, fatigue management, customer services skills and safe manual handling.”

Harwood said the TTA was looking to partner with the education and training sector and was already working with the University of Tasmania on programs to support emerging leaders in the industry.

The release of the reports coincides with National Road Safety Week.

Harwood said all parties in the transport chain had a responsibility to manage risk where practicable and to be aware of pressures placed on transport operators and drivers.

“The prevailing view of external parties is that all aspects relating to transport are the domain of the transport business and that this is effectively ‘not their problem,’” she said.

“This is not the case. Chain of Responsibility means that duties and responsibilities to manage safety risks cannot be subcontracted out.”

Harwood said while working towards a shared responsibility was complex it was vital for all parties to be on the same page.

“There are significant benefits for transport operators to clarify and document their transport activities, develop business systems that actually fit their business and communicate safety requirements with external parties.”

The Tasmanian Transport and Logistics Workforce Plan 2020-2023 can be found at https://www.tta.org.au/workforce-plan-2020-2023/

Safe Systems: Chain of Responsibility in Tasmanian Transport Chains is available at https://www.tta.org.au/cor-resources/

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