Talk to anyone at any industry forum and the subject of getting and keeping good people to work in the trucking industry is always coming up. This is a problem, both short term and long term, and one which needs to be addressed by the trucking industry as a whole.
One of the big players in freight, Asciano, has developed a progressive attitude to HR within its corporate structure. Employees at the company range right across the spectrum but do include a large number of truckies, warehouse and dock workers, as well as technicians.
This week the company outlined the reasons people should go and work for the freight giant in a blog post on its website. The various reasons laid out were aimed at pulling in the young, diverse people they need, to replace the ageing male workforce the company has.
Looking down that list, how many trucking operations could answer in the positive, when asked if they are attractive to young, smart and ambitious people. These are the new recruits we need, how are we going to get them?
Here are some of the eight reasons, according to the blog, as to why you should go and work for Asciano.
First up is stability. Having worked in the transport industry all of my working life, I can contend most employment in our industry is very far from stable. Contracts come and go, large corporates build up large truck fleets and divest themselves of them in a cyclical way. Working for a small operator never feels stable, often operations are only one major stuff-up away from disaster.
Trucking does score well on the variety of work. For many truckies, they never know what they are going to be asked to do next, but whatever it is, it will have to be done now, and to a tight deadline. Even if the job is the same on a day to day basis, you never know what is going to happen and what you will have to do to get the task completed.
Opportunities for every level of education? I am sure most major trucking operations do have these opportunities. Over ten years the number of people aged 25 to 34 with a bachelor degree rose from 25 to 37 per cent. Are these people pouring into road freight? Do many see working in our industry as a last option when all of the others have failed to materialise?
What about career progression? Does someone coming into a trucking business see it as a career where they can develop their full potential? Although there is plenty of churn in the workforce at the coalface, there is little movement among management. Perhaps some of the bigger operators like Toll or Linfox work hard, in some areas, to develop ambitious young people and bring them through. However, it is not the case for most working in trucking.
The fact, working in the trucking industry is not location specific is an advantage, and probably one we should emphasise more often. Get experience in a trucking operation and you can take the skill anywhere, even overseas. Of course, this aspect does have a flip-side when we see good drivers and technicians drifting into the mining area when the going is good and then coming back with their tail between their legs when the big money dries up.
Working with new technologies? Well yes, the trucking industry does work with a lot of new technologies and many of them are for the employees benefit, in terms of improved safety and easier working conditions. Many others, however, are based on a mistrust on the part of the operator, for the employee. It’s often about big brother watching you and controlling every aspect of the driver’s behaviour, maximising productivity.
The last two are problematic for trucking, good pay and fulfilling work. Often the kind of money it is possible to earn is very good, but comes with a lot of sacrifices, not least of which is living in a cramped cabin, putting up with terrible facilities and hardly ever seeing the family.
Fulfilling work involves a sense of satisfaction in doing a job well, and we can all get that from our work. Working in the trucking industry can also be very frustrating with road users, road conditions and roadside enforcement all making life on the road difficult. Overcome all these obstacles and get the freight delivered, then there is some satisfaction. There can also be a long frustrating wait for your paperwork, as well.
All in all, is the trucking industry an attractive option? Perhaps it is for some, but not for many. I, for one, tried to convince my oldest son to use his good results at school to try and find a career in road transport. Only to be greeted with a short two-word answer.