The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says there is a dangerous shortage of capable drivers in Australia, and is pushing to expand 457 visas to allow skilled migrants to take up the spots.

The ATA has requested heavy vehicle driving be added to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency’s Skilled Occupation List, which defines the labour and industry shortages that can be filled by workers from other countries.

The ATA has blamed a number of factors for what it sees as a severe shortage of drivers. Competition from the mining sector, and aging workforce and a lack of interest from the young labour market are all factors which may see many cabs empty in the short term.

Other cited reasons for the shortage include; the industry’s poor image, restrictive licensing regulations, high insurance premiums for young drivers and limited training opportunities.

“While the industry has and continues to make attracting and training young drivers a priority, this is just not meeting the driver shortages already being felt in some areas,” ATA National Policy Manager David Coonan says.

“The ATA recommends that the [Federal] Government change the Skilled Occupation List to include heavy vehicle drivers in order for temporary, competent foreign drivers to supplement the Australian workforce.

“History shows that migrant workers benefits the economy and improve the standard of living for all Australia.”

The ATA has reported estimates that half of the workforce in the trucking industry will be over the age of 65 by 2026.

“The industry has recognised that significant action is needed in order to keep Australia moving, since current recruitment policies are not meeting the driver shortage,” the submission states.

“Some estimates have indicated that the rate of recruitment will need to increase by 150 per cent in order to support the increased demand for road freight services and a simultaneous loss of retiring drivers.”