Ashley Millard, who has been involved with her family's Summerland Express Freight Ltd most of her life, would
like to see more women become involved in the industry. Photo by Tim Brown
More women will be encouraged to enter the truck driving
industry as part of a new strategy to both address the
shortage of skilled truck drivers in New Zealand and to
improve the image of the industry.
The industry faces a ''chronic shortage'' which will be
exacerbated when Immigration New Zealand (INZ) removes truck
driving from its Intermediate Skills Shortage List (ISSL)
next February, making it harder for employers to bring in
overseas drivers to fill their vacancies.
The national body representing the commercial road freight
industry, the Road Transport Forum, held a workshop earlier
this month and invited women who were involved in the
industry, as well as company managers and directors, and
representatives from members' associations, the Ministry of
Transport, New Zealand Transport Agency and the Ministry of
Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said they looked at
barriers and challenges for women wishing to enter the
industry and, as a result of the meeting, a strategy was
developed, and would be released at the industry's annual
conference in Wellington in September.
In a recent ''Trucking Brief'' newsletter, it said about 84%
of people employed in the industry were men compared to the
national average of 54% generally.
Mr Shirley said the transport industry ''was a very macho
and they intended to launch a publicity campaign as part of
''The gender balance is lacking and historically it has been
seen as a male profession,'' Mr Shirley said.
''Although there are quite a few women drivers out there who
are not just driving big trucks but big heavy combo rigs, we
have to make it more attractive to both women and young
''We cannot afford not to appeal to the full labour market
[to address the skills shortage].''
He said they wanted to improve the image of the sector, which
was subject to stereotyping and conservative attitudes.
''Having more women in the industry will contribute to
improving the image.''
President of the Otago/Southland (region five) of New Zealand
Road Transport Association for Bruce Robertson, of Heriot,
who, along with wife Shona, are directors of West Otago
He said he thought that many rural transport companies he was
aware of each needed one or two people to fill vacancies.
''A lot of jobs are not advertised,'' Mr Robertson said.
''Even our service providers are struggling to get staff,
including tyre fitters, auto electricians and engineer
outfitters and it is a nationwide problem.
''We are looking for another [fertiliser] spreader driver and
want to take on an apprentice.''
''With the four-week holidays employers have to hire extra
staff just to cover for annual leave and Fonterra swallows up
a lot of drivers.''
In addition truck drivers have limitations on the number of
hours they are allowed to drive.
He said truck driving was a specialist area with some rigs
costing up to $700,000 each to put on the road.
His company has developed an apprenticeship programme to
bring on more young people through the ranks and he said it
cost about $8000 to get a staff member his licence, not
including wages and running costs and then there was the risk
of the workers moving to another company after gaining their
Mrs Robertson said she had been involved in the transport
industry most of her life and had started her career at her
parents' company, Dynes Transport, in Tapanui.
She knows of several companies employing women drivers, many
of whom are ''pretty impressive''.
However, stereotyping was an issue that needed to be
''Gone are the days of `dumb' truck drivers.
''These guys handle $500,000 rigs, plus dealing with GPS [and
other technology], and paperwork.
''Another challenge is the mind-set of the older gentlemen
[in the industry].
''Although some [older drivers] will never be 100% convinced
[about women drivers] attitudes need to change.''
Ashley Millard has been involved with the family business,
Summerland Express Freight, in Cromwell, for most of her life
and remembers when a pre-schooler, being picked up from
creche and spending the day with her father in the cab of the
Now she has her class five licence, manages the Frankton
office and oversees the Invercargill site and ultimately
wants to run the company.
''Most girls and probably most young people, possibly never
even thought about being a truck driver,'' Miss Millard said.
Skills match with migration
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) policy manager Chris Hubscher
said the Essential Skills in Demand (ESID) Lists were
established in 2002 to help ensure New Zealand's skill needs
were met by facilitating the entry of appropriately-skilled
migrants to fill skill shortages.
''However, this objective must be balanced by the need to
ensure that there are no suitably qualified New Zealand
citizens or resident workers available to undertake the work,
and that the shortage is `genuine','' Mr Hubscher said.
He said the ESID Lists consist of the Long Term Skill
Shortage List (LTSSL), the Immediate Skill Shortage List
(ISSL) and a temporary third list, the Canterbury Skill
Shortage List (CSSL) and were regularly reviewed and updated
and involved extensive consultation.
Following consultation, it was decided that truck drivers
would be removed from the ISSL as the occupation had been on
the list for several years and the industry has had time to
respond to the skill shortage.
''But the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment -
of which Immigration New Zealand is a part - recognised that
to remove the occupation from the list immediately could have
caused some adverse impacts on the industry.
''As a result the industry was given a year's notice of the
change and it will not take effect until February next
''It's important to stress that the ESID Lists are not the
only options for migrants to enter and work in New Zealand.
''If the trucking industry can still not find drivers once
they come off the list, they will still be able to bring in
temporary migrants, so long as there are no suitable New
Zealanders available to take those jobs,'' he said.
- by Yvonne O'Hara