This week the government has announced the release of a consultation paper on a plan to introduce truck driving apprenticeships, but we need an apprenticeship now.
It is frustrating to watch the wheels of government turn so slowly, and the drastic shortage of properly skilled drivers in the trucking workforce is one which needs urgent action.
The frustration becomes even greater when we realise that this is a consultation which is going to have to involve all of the states. This alone adds years to the process and there is a chance the trucking industry will be on its knees due to a skills shortage, before this even gets the nod to go ahead.
The go ahead will be followed by another period where the process will gradually roll out. This will be followed by another period for information to be pushed out to the interested parties and then we will have to wait further for the time when people get their heads around the idea and act on it.
Of course, we need to get right behind the idea and try and make the process as fast as possible. Unanimous industry support, without internal bickering on the finer points would grease the wheels and make the bureaucratic wheels turn a little faster.
The issue is probably what do we do in the meantime? Perhaps refusing to allow older truckies to retire may continue as a stop-gap measure. In fact, we are already doing this and the average age of truck drivers is going up every year.
Talking to operators around the country, they often talk about drivers carrying on well into their seventies and how grateful they are because no new blood is coming through. It’s a good job most of these baby boomers are living longer, otherwise the trucking industry would have an even bigger issue on its hands.
Returning to the topic of glacial governmental change, the prospect of young people coming into our industry in decent numbers is exciting, but when are we going to see the results of this latest initiative?
After the consultation period, we will then go into a drafting process with all of the discussions around that. Then we might get an apprenticeship scheme, but will it be available in every state?
Finally, some time off in the distant future, the scheme is available and then the process of promoting it, getting it out there will begin. This will be no easy task, as the status of people working in the trucking industry will probably be even lower in the future than it is now.
Let’s hope I am wrong and the process does go smoothly and we get a workable apprenticeship scheme which introduces a good number of young people into the industry with the right attitude and skills into the trucking game.
Then all of those older truckies can finally retire.