Action plan to solve shortage

The Road Transport Forum (RTF) has developed a two-pronged attack to address the shortage of skilled drivers in the industry.

The forum wishes to quantify the skilled and experienced driver shortage through a survey and has also launched a Women in Transport action plan, which outlines initiatives designed to attract more women into the industry. The survey was launched to determine the extent and severity of the problem last week.

Immigration New Zealand had removed truck driving from its Intermediate Skills Shortage List last year, making it harder for employers to bring in overseas drivers to fill vacancies.

RTF chief executive Ken Shirley said he was dismayed when it was removed.

''With the improvement in the economy, the shortage will get worse,'' Mr Shirley said.

''I suspect the problem is a lot worse than what a lot of officials think.''

He said solid data was needed to demonstrate to the Government that there was a serious issue.

The survey had been sent to forum members as well as to other industry organisations and asked questions about difficulties employers experienced in sourcing staff. He urged transport employers to fill out the form so they could quantify the issue. The survey needed to be returned by March 21.

The Women in Transport action plan had received a lot of support and enthusiasm from the industry, he said.

''We want to encourage more interest from women as there is a shortage of skilled drivers and we want to also improve the image of the industry.

''The public has a stereotypical image of an old, fat, pie-eating male [truck driver].

''As an industry we need to have a greater diversity and provide more support for those already in the industry.''

Although women were prominent in support roles within the industry, there were only between 3% and 5% of drivers who were women.

''Those women who are in the industry are passionate about it and that is good.''

The forum developed the plan during recent conferences and meetings and was also working with the Ministry of Women's Affairs, which had been supportive.

- by Yvonne O'Hara