Wages blamed for driver shortage

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Recruiting young truck drivers now could help with the shortage of experienced heavy goods drivers nationally. PHOTO/FILE
Recruiting young truck drivers now could help with the shortage of experienced heavy goods drivers nationally. PHOTO/FILE

Wairarapa trucking companies are seeking young blood to stand up and take the wheel, amid a national acute shortage of experienced truckies.

Trucking businesses also face downward pressure on freight rates, high operating costs and a shortage of drivers, according to the Road Transport Forum.

Pay is an issue, with truck drivers earning less than $20 an hour.

While Wairarapa trucking companies have confirmed they are coping well with industry pressures, Ian Garrity of Garrity Bros Greytown, who has been driving trucks for more than 40 years, said there is "definitely a need for more young fellas" to move up the ranks and get experience now before it is too late.

"Our company has been here since 1893 you know, so we've been around for a long time and have seen a lot of industry changes and there is a definite shortage of experienced drivers," he said.

"The average age of truck drivers now is fairly old. So if a young fella is really interested in driving trucks, we've really got to coax them through it now and do what we can."

Mr Garrity said there were a few factors that were discouraging young people from entering the heavy goods driving profession including the high cost of heavy vehicle driver licences "between $2000 and $5000", and a lack of "small jobs" for juniors to gain driving experience in.

"A lot of guys can get their licence fine, then you put them Big jobs make it hard for newcomers to gain experience

in a big truck and they just haven't got the feel for it," he said.

"You've got to start at the bottom on a smaller truck and work your way up.

"But these days, there are no small jobs it seems. They're all big jobs for big rigs and it's hard to get enough experienced drivers for that."

He said Wairarapa was a good place to start a career because "some of the companies here do have the smaller trucks" that can be manned by less experienced drivers.

"We've got little trucks, but we don't get enough small jobs to put a permanent young fella on there," he said.

"Martinborough Transport have got a little truck and they definitely have a fulltime driver of that, Pinfolds have got a couple of them, and so have Wairarapa Livestock, McAuley's have little freight trucks driving around too."

McAuley's Transport manager Steve McMahon said their company has "a couple of young ones started with us and they seem to be doing well, but there's definitely fewer coming through the ranks".

"Lowering the costs and speeding up the process of getting a class 5 truck and trailer licence would help encourage more people to join the industry," he said.

According to Unions Northland, many truck drivers earn $16.60 an hour. Representatives say this rate should be in the mid-$20s to incentivise the career path.

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