New Zealand truck drivers are ageing but, as trucks get bigger and bigger, the ability of transport companies to train new drivers is waning.
Napier Port, which handles more than half of Hawke's Bay's GDP, is gorwing increasingly concerned with the labour shortage as logging exports double.
"One of the great challenges we have in our industry is the number of truck drivers that are going to be needed in the forestry sector," said the Port's Commmercial Manager, Andrew Locke. "Are there enough people and do the have the right skill-set?"
Hawke's Bay-based Emmerson Transport is one of the largest independent operators in the transport industry. It has 94 drivers but just two trucks in its fleet suitable for its training programme.
It takes several years to graduate to a level five license, which comes with a high level of responsibility and better pay, but comes with high demands to safeguard people, payload, and plant.
Managing director Ian Emmerson said importing drivers was a last resort "for both the company and the country" but was currently struggling to give all drivers a Christmas break.
He said if the economy continued to grow it may have to turn away work.
"The industry associations are working with government on a SWEP programme [Sector Workforce Engagement Programme] to try and realign the licensing issues and reduce the time taken."
He said wages were rising nationally which would help attract people, but it was not a total solution.