26 Jan 2016

More longhaul truckies needed on the road

2:37 pm on 26 January 2016

There is a desperate shortage of long-haul truck drivers and the situation is only going to get worse, transport groups say.

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Photo: 123rf.com

National Road Carriers - the association which represents the industry - said the average age was about 55, and drivers were not getting any younger.

Statistics New Zealand figures showed the number of drivers increased only from 24,490 to 26,380 in the past decade.

National Road Carriers chief executive David Aitken said hundreds of trucks were sitting unused in freight yards because of the shortage.

"The freight task is growing over the next 20 years by up to 75 percent.

"The number of drivers isn't stagnant, but it's not keeping up with that demand."

He said the problem was not pay - the average wage for people with class five truck licences was about $30/hour - but rather a lack of people progressing through the licensing system.

Robert Reid, the general secretary of First Union, which represents drivers, said younger people on lower licences often could not afford the appropriate training.

"To get a class four of five licence could cost anywhere between $500 and $1300. If you're on a lower class and a lower wage, you can't really afford to do that."

He said one solution would be for the government to subsidise that training.

Mr Aitken said National Road Carriers was working with the industry to devise a plan to make truck driving a more attractive job.

"As an export based economy, it is vital we have a productive and efficient road freight system to remain competitive both on the domestic and export markets," he said.