World News Truck driver shortage threatens empty shelves, higher prices Blog

A brewing crisis in Australia’s transport industry could soon leave shoppers faced with higher prices and even empty shelves.

According to a new survey by the International Road Transport Union, there will be 26,049 vacancies for truck drivers in 2024, and that number is expected to worsen.

“This is not just a crisis for the trucking industry, it is a crisis for the entire economy,” said Warren Clark, executive director of the National Road Transport Association.

“We are seeing a huge gap in the number of drivers needed and the impact on our supply chain and our country is significant.

“Over 26,000 drivers are needed to fill the current gaps in our sector. The largest fleet operators are the ones most affected.

“If around 180,000 drivers are needed for an efficient sector, this corresponds to a deficit of 14.4 percent and is therefore significantly higher than the current nationwide vacancy rate of five to six percent.”

NATIONAL TRUCK CONVOIES
Camera iconAustralia’s transport industry is facing a severe labour shortage and a new IRU survey says the situation is likely to get worse. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: NCA News Service

Two main means of transport are used to deliver goods and products to warehouses, supermarkets and shops: truck and rail.

There are no railway lines in most rural areas of Australia, so supplies are only available via truck.

The shortage is likely to worsen as the survey shows that a significant proportion of truck drivers are close to retirement.

About 47 percent of drivers are 55 years or older, while only 5.2 percent are younger than 25. The average age is 49 years.

About 60 percent of companies with a fleet size of more than 200 trucks said they expected “major difficulties” in 2025.

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

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

The NRTA is pushing for incentive programs to make truck driving more attractive to young people and women and to encourage drivers to continue.

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

A large proportion of Australian truck drivers suffer from mental health issues, identified by one of our largest supply chain companies. Toll Group is partnering with Steering Healthy Minds, who are launching a new initiative designed to shine a spotlight on truck drivers and warehouse workers who often suffer in silence. The national program will focus in particular on early intervention and education for those working in the transport industry.

“We also need to increase the quality and competence of training and accreditation and improve their overall working conditions, especially for those already in the industry.

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

In addition to domestic truck traffic, increasing pressure in the global shipping industry could also overwhelm buyers with inflated prices.

The war between Israel and Gaza has disrupted shipping traffic in the Red Sea; rebels from Yemen attacked container ships.

In response, shipping companies are avoiding the Red Sea and choosing a longer route around the southern tip of Africa.

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

A bottleneck at the port of Singapore is also delaying the delivery of goods to Australian consumers.

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