It has called for a national strategy to address what it views as an impending crunch. Last month, smaller trucking operators called for new TAFE pathways to jobs in the freight industry to help grow the sector.
The number of jobs in the sector is set to climb beyond 220,000 over the next five years, though more than half the workforce is approaching retirement and aged over 45, according to Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business data.
Seriously, this industry is at a point where we’re entering crisis now.
Senator Glenn Serle
Safety is also a key concern when considering the attractiveness of the sector, with a number of submissions calling for a national framework or standard for adopting more cutting-edge safety technologies.
Some technology startups have found a niche in this space but say more needs to be done.
Queensland business SmartCap Technologies has built a client base for its real-time fatigue monitoring tools in the mining industry over the past decade. It it is now focused on the road freight sector.
Its submission to the committee called for the formal recognition of technologies like the SmartCap system as a way of mitigating risk.
“I think it helps both smaller and larger operators to take that step [towards investment] if a number of technologies were listed in an approved framework, so businesses don’t feel like they’re out on their own,” SmartCap chief executive Tim Ekert said.
The inquiry is being overseen by Labor Senator Glenn Sterle, who said it was needed because supply chains were being squeezed in the logistics sector to a point where drivers were under intense time and financial pressure when doing their jobs.
“Seriously, this industry is at a point where we’re entering crisis now,” Senator Sterle said.
The federal government has a range of heavy vehicle safety policies, including road improvement plans and the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, which is currently calling for applications for new safety programs to be funded.
A spokesperson for the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the government welcomed the review.
“The Australian government is working closely with the industry to deliver record investment in safe and productive road infrastructure, support the uptake of new vehicle technology and facilitate effective reform to support the ongoing support of the sector,” the spokesperson said.
The government won’t receive the report until October 2020, though public hearings will be launched across the country from this month.
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Emma is the small business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne.