Tightening of immigration rules by the government has New Zealand's already short-staffed trucking industry worried.

With an estimated shortage of more than 500 truck drivers in Auckland alone, companies have been bringing in workers from overseas to fill the skills gap.

Under the new rules announced by Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, migrants would need to earn more than $49,000 to qualify for a skilled worker visa.

Those earning more than $73,299 annually would automatically be classified as highly skilled.


Migrants earning less than $49,000 would only be eligible for a three-year visa, after which a minimum stand-down period would apply before they could renew it.

According to DT Driver Training director Darren Cottingham, most new drivers wouldn't be making $49,000, which could make the already difficult task of finding drivers, harder.

"If you're a class 2 driver then you're probably not going to be making much more than $20 an hour so as a new driver you wouldn't be making the $49,000," Cottingham said.

"Some drivers would be, but a lot would not be on $50,000 a year and definitely not $73,000 a year."

National Road Carriers chief executive David Aitken said hundreds of trucks were parked up across the country every day because there weren't enough drivers to keep them going.

He said the problem was expected to get worse with freight predicted to grow 75 per cent in the next 20 to 30 years.

"As an industry we need more drivers," Aitken said.

"We're working with government and others and doing what we can to get more New Zealanders into the industry, and we'll continue to do that, but in the meantime we're not meeting the demand for drivers and a lot of operators are looking overseas to fill those gaps," he said.


"If after three years [overseas drivers] have to have a stand down period if they don't meet the higher salary requirement, then that is going to hurt the industry."

Cottingham said while he wasn't sure how big an effect the new rules would have, it was likely to remove an option for the trucking industry which was already struggling.