If you were to interview a group of school leavers in Year 12 and ask the question, who wants to be a truck driver? How many positive responses would you get? The answer would be not many, if any. Very few of our young people are fired up with the romantic vision of being a knight of the open road and get to see our wonderful country from the cabin of a state of the art truck.
It may well be that one of the reasons for this lack of interest is the lack of any kind of romantic notion about travelling our highways for the next generation. The lure of the open road, as somewhere to have a road trip adventure, has been replaced by a view of an arduous, boring and dangerous method of getting from A to B.
In fact, when the open road was romantic, it was also a lot more dangerous. Maybe that was part of its attraction? If you were to talk to the generation of truck drivers who are retiring now, they would have a completely different view on life on the road to that of their grandchildren in school.
However, the reason for the lack of interest from Australia’s youth is not because they are risk-averse. Kids still do stupid things and indulge in dangerous behaviour of many kinds, both healthy and extremely unhealthy.
So why not drive trucks? Perhaps they are still in search of adventure, but truck driving isn’t quite the adventure that it used to be. Gone are the days when a driver would load a truck and set off into the wild blue yonder and have to survive on their own wits for a couple of weeks, be completely self-sufficient and fix anything that went wrong themselves.
It’s not quite the same kind of adventure when you are being satellite tracked 24/7 and in constant communication with your employers, as well as friends and family. It is possible to cross Australia with a loaded truck and still keep up to date with your online social life, all the way.
Plenty of our young people want to travel and do criss cross the world looking for adventure, but just don’t want to do it driving a truck, for some reason.
So, who wants to be a truck driver?
All of these aspects of the problem may be true, but are they one of the main reasons for kids lack of interest in trucking? It would seem one of those major stumbling blocks is a lack of profile and status for trucking as a whole.
We try and get our children to work hard at school to ensure they get good grades, so that at the end of Year 12 they can go and get further education, either at University or in pursuit of a trade which will pay well.
Trucking doesn’t come under any of those categories, it is just a job you might drift into if you don’t go well at school or lose interest in the training you are pursuing. There is no attractive apprenticeship with a good well paid job at the end of it.
There are initiatives trying to develop some form of apprenticeship model and give professional training to young aspirant drivers, but it is clearly not enough. It is barely possible to paper over the cracks of a distinct driver shortage with more productive trucks and lots of in cab technology to compensate for less than competent drivers.
Wouldn’t it be better to put some real effort, and real dollars, into coming up with an image for trucks and trucking which could be attractive to these lost drivers?