A survey carried out by Volvo into the driver supply issues has prompted action to address these issues by the company and others involved. Some of the results of the survey are likely to surprise and disturb the trucking industry.
So far, the survey has been responded to by fleets employing a total of 34,000 drivers. 52 per cent of businesses report difficulty in sourcing drivers, but when it comes to attracting the quality of drivers required the number is 82 per cent. 90 per cent of respondents believe bad driver image influences the number of drivers available.
The perception on the part of the general public of drivers is a long way from the reality, according to the results of the survey, with 77 per cent reckoning driver image is outdate and 72 per cent frustrated with driver image by those outside the industry.
In response to the results it found, Volvo, here in Australia, has come out publicly to declare its intention to develop initiatives to improve training standards and the preparation of drivers for the road. As part of this initiative it has immediately come out formally in supporting heavy-vehicle driving academy, The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls.
This group have been trying to raise awareness of this issue for some time, taking innovative approaches to the issue, such as targeting female drivers.
“Women make up a tiny proportion of Australian heavy-vehicle drivers,” said co-founder of the company, Heather Jones, “but they’re just as capable of driving a big rig as a man. We know that the road freight task is increasing, but fewer people are entering the industry, and a big part of this is an image problem. We want to change that. For a lot of people, driving a truck is all about machismo, but to us it’s about getting the job done safely and efficiently.”
Heather first came to the attention of Volvo Group Australia’s President, Peter Voorhoeve, when he awarded her the ATA’s ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Trucking Industry’ award in 2015. Since that time, Voorhoeve had been planning ways to support her crusade.
“Australia is facing a big problem when it comes to driver availability, and its only getting worse. We’ve been looking for ways to address the issue for some time now,” said Voorhoeve. “What Heather is doing is exactly what we need more of. The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls have a waiting list of licensed people who want to be drivers but can’t get a job because they’re lacking experience, Heather provides that much needed experience and stepping-stone to the industry!”
The outcome, from the Volvo Group to the Pilbara Girls, two prime movers, a 700hp Volvo FH16 and 685hp Mack Super-Liner, and access to Volvo Group’s extensive driver training and competence development assets.
“I’m still in shock to be honest,” said Jones, after the presentation. “It’s a fantastically generous offer from Volvo Group Australia, and it vindicates our decision to think differently. With their support, we’re now able to train more people, and train them to the world-class standard of the Volvo Group.”
Heather Jones, in her own business, spent many years extolling the virtues of female drivers. Now under the the banner of Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls, training female drivers is at the core of their business strategy. As the organisation grew, Heather also found she had qualified drivers of both genders applying who couldn’t get a job, so they quickly adapted and now offer comprehensive training regardless of gender.