Pandemic response risks pushing freight off the road: VTA
Covid compliance and vaccine mandates along with existing workforce shortage crippled operators
Vaccine mandates exacerbate existing industry problems
The way states deal with Covid compliance is about to get more complicated, with a new variant causing national anxiety and current rules threatening freight transportation.
The former, courtesy of the Omicron variant, is widely reported, but the results of an investigation by the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) will likely be less so.
It shows that onerous compliance measures and vaccination warrants for freight workers are wreaking havoc on road transport operators.
The VTA said it had interviewed more than 75 small, medium and large operators carrying goods ranging from chemicals and fuels, construction products, agricultural products, food, groceries and general merchandise on a range of issues that emerged during the pandemic.
The goal was to understand how regulatory adjustments could help an industry trying to overcome massive supply chain pressures leading up to Christmas and beyond.
Among other things, he found that the Covid restrictions exacerbated an already existing driver shortage problem.
“The survey results reaffirmed industry concerns about the supply of drivers and a government system that is preventing the industry from attracting young people,” the association said.
“The survey offered a timely insight into the sentiments of the road freight industry.”
Among the main findings were:
- 84% of operators said Covid restrictions had a negative impact on their business
- 62% of operators lost an average of 4% of their drivers due to compulsory vaccinations, with one operator surveyed losing half of his drivers
- 95% of operators are experiencing a shortage of drivers, with nearly 1,800 vacant positions in the only responding companies.
- 90% of operators said they would support regulatory changes to train 18-year-olds to obtain a heavy truck license.
VTA CEO Peter Anderson said the investigation echoed concerns his organization had championed for months and that unless steps were taken to help the industry attract new drivers, chains d Supply would continue to be vulnerable, putting upward pressure on consumer costs.
Read how Anderson raised these industry concerns last month, here
âWhen 95% of operators say they cannot find enough drivers, it confirms that governments need to do more in partnership with industry to recruit staff,â said Peter Anderson, CEO of VTA.
âVictoria’s heavy vehicle registration system is broken and we need urgent action to attract young people to our rapidly aging profession.
âNine in ten operators said they would support a licensing scheme that professionally trains and employs 18-year-olds who are leaving school to drive a heavy vehicle.
Anderson urged the state government to act on this information, warning that otherwise the shortage would worsen as older drivers retire, with the inevitable consequences of higher consumer prices at the fund. .
âLosing an average of 4% of drivers is the last thing an operator needs in the midst of a labor shortage crisis,â Anderson said.
âThe vaccine mandates that have driven some from the profession underscore our industry’s urgent need to reform licensing to attract young people and new people to freight and logistics.
“If you can fly a plane at 16 and fight in the military overseas at 18, there’s no reason you can’t trust an 18-year-old driving a heavy vehicle after extensive training and instruction. “
Freestone Transport Managing Director Paul Freestone observed that the labor shortage is the worst he has seen in his 50 years in transport.
âFuel and labor are the biggest costs for operators and, if we don’t increase our driver pool, the costs will increase extraordinarily,â Freestone said.
âThe biggest obstacle to recruiting new drivers is an outdated licensing system that prevents the industry from training young and competent people for a career as a professional driver.
“I would love to be able to hire a qualified young person for a lifelong career in transportation, but under the current licensing regime, nothing is planned for that.”
The survey also asked respondents about their environmental policies at a time when the national conversation about emission reductions is feverish.
Three-quarters (76%) of operators have an environmental policy in their business and 82% would support regulatory changes to encourage low-emission heavy-duty vehicles.
âThe fastest way to reduce emissions from heavy vehicles is to encourage operators to replace their fleets with vehicles with less emitting Euro 5 and 6 engines. Anderson said.
Respondents were also asked about the three biggest issues they would face next year with labor availability (96%), cost and tariff management (62%) and pricing of the fuel (50%), the most urgent for freight operators.
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