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New crisis to hit shoppers with higher prices

NATIONAL TRUCK CONVOYS
There is a concerning lack of truck drivers in Australia. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

A brewing crisis in Australia’s trucking industry could soon pummel shoppers with higher prices and even empty shelves.

A new survey from the International Road Transport Union reveals there are 26,049 unfilled truck driver positions in 2024, and the numbers are expected to worsen.

“This is not just a crisis for the trucking industry, it’s a crisis for the national economy,” National Road Transport Association chief executive Warren Clark said.

“We’re seeing a huge gap in the number of drivers required and the downstream impact on our supply chain and our country is significant.

“Over 26,000 drivers are needed to fill the current gaps in our sector, with big fleet operators the most impacted.

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“When there is a need for around 180,000 drivers for an effective sector, this represents a 14.4 per cent shortfall, well over the current national job vacancy rate of between 5 and 6 per cent.”

NATIONAL TRUCK CONVOYS
There is a severe workforce shortage in Australia’s trucking industry and a new survey from IRU says it will likely get worse. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Goods and produce are delivered to warehouses, supermarkets and shops by two primary transportation methods: trucks and trains.

There are no train tracks running through most of regional and remote Australia, and that means the only supply system available is trucking.

The shortage looks set to sharpen, with the survey revealing a substantial portion of truck drivers are close to retirement.

Some 47 per cent of drivers are aged 55 years or older, while just 5.2 per cent are younger than 25 years. The average age is 49.

Some 60 per cent of companies with a fleet size of more than 200 trucks reported they expected to confront “more difficulties” in 2025.

“The supply chain is the backbone of our economy, and without enough drivers, the entire system is at risk,” Mr Clark said.

“We need immediate action from the government to prevent further disruption.”

NRTA is pushing for incentive programs to make trucking more appealing to young people and women and to encourage operators to keep going.

“This includes investing in training programs that equip new drivers with the necessary skills, improving career pathways into the industry, including better access to apprenticeships and traineeships, and focusing on increasing the number of young and female drivers,” Mr Clark said.

A large portion of Australian truck drivers face mental health problems which has been identified by one of our largest supply chain companies. Toll Group is partnering with Steering Healthy Minds who are rolling out a new initiative that attempts to highlight truck drivers and warehouse operators who suffer often-silent struggles. The national program focuses especially on early intervention and education for those in the transport industry.

“We must also improve the quality and competency of training and licensing and enhance their overall working conditions, especially for those in the industry already.

“This means addressing issues such as non-safety-related fines, improving the quality and quantity of rest areas and recognising the essential role of truck drivers by treating them with respect, including at customer depots and delivery sites.”

Alongside domestic trucking, growing pressures in the global shipping industry could also smash shoppers with inflated prices.

The Israel-Gaza war has disrupted shipping in the Red Sea, with rebels from Yemen attacking container ships.

Shipping companies have responded by avoiding the Red Sea and pursuing a longer route around the southern tip of Africa.

That means longer travel times, delivery delays and higher prices.

A bottleneck at the Port of Singapore is also delaying the delivery of goods to Australians consumers.