The top 5 issues in the transportation industry

Tess Lynch, 5 min read

What are biggest issues faced by managers, safety officers, and truck drivers?

  1. Maintaining safe practices and reaching a 'no harm' goal
  2. Keeping up with legislative changes
  3. The limited available rest stops and dealing with the flow-on effect on fatigue management
  4. The industry's skill and driver shortage
  5. Utilising technology effectively

Every industry has its issues, and the transportation industry is no different. Whether these issues are new or long-standing, they have a regular effect on workers. Though, as the transportation industry services involves everyone, they can affect the wider community too.

So, we took a look at the top 5 issues the transportation industry is dealing with right now!

1. Health and safety

While this should be a concern no matter the workplace, when working in the transportation industry it can be even harder to stay healthy and safe. Transportation and logistics have the highest rate of workplace injuries and accidents in Australia.

From these stats, and according to almost every publication that has touched on the subject, truck driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in Australia. The number of heavy vehicle crashes in NSW has increased by 86% in the last year alone, 80 workers a year are killed in or around trucks, truck drivers are more likely to be involved in road accidents, and accidents have a higher risk of being fatal when they do occur.

On the health side of things, 82.5% of truck drivers are overweight and over 22% experience mental health issues.

So what makes truck driving so dangerous? A research report from Macquarie University shows the main reasons:

  • Long hours – Fatigue is one of the top 3 causes of road accidents. And what is a major cause of fatigue for truck drivers? Long hours. 82% of truck drivers report working more than 50hrs a week, and 10% more than 80hrs!
  • Pressure to drive under unsafe conditions – Drivers feel pressure to meet unrealistic deadlines, carrying unsafe loads and working unsafe schedules in order to make them. 20% of drivers claim to break safety rules to meet deadlines, and 31% of employers say that drivers will ignore safety rules to get to the job done.
  • Drivers feeling unable to speak up when there is a safety issue – When drivers are placed under pressure to follow unsafe practices, they feel unable to voice it for fear of losing their job. 1 in 6 drivers don’t think they can refuse to drive with an unsafe load, and 20% of drivers said they would not report being pressured to falsify their work diary.

2. Legislation changes

With the constant goal of making the transport industry safer, legislation regularly undergoes improvements and reviews which companies often struggle to keep up with.

Not only can it be hard to access the relevant information and resources, it requires time, funds, and commitment to building workers skill and knowledge on the changes. By nature, the transportation industry has a largely distributed workforce, acting as an extra roadblock (get it) for businesses when trying to supply training.

These factors often mean that companies are unsure how to implement changes and are unable to train their workers either in time or to a sufficient standard to meet compliance.

Recently, the most significant legislative change has been that of Chain of Responsibility. This update requires businesses to take a proactive approach to safety and risk management and shares responsibility for safety breaches amongst everyone in the supply chain.

This is just one example of when a legislation change needs further training, as failure to follow the new laws will result in penalties.

3. Rest stops!

To meet compliance for fatigue management, drivers are required to take rest breaks to avoid becoming too tired to drive safely. The laws surrounding fatigue management have been updated to be a bit stricter (we’re talking 'fined for driving an extra 10mins into your scheduled break' strict) to compel drivers to adhere to safe practices.

The problem many drivers face with fatigue management is that there are too few trucks stops to be able to take a break when they need to and, of the stops that are available, many are in poor condition or filled with caravans so that drivers can’t stop.

This has been an ongoing issue in the trucking industry for years, most notably in rural or remote areas where truck stops are few and far between. This is a safety issue as well as detrimental to drivers quality of life.

4. Skills and driver shortage

The transportation industry has an ageing workforce, with the average age of truck drivers being 47. Therefore, many workers are moving into retirement. In combination with this, the industry is struggling to attract young or highly skilled workers, leading to not just a driver shortage but a skill shortage too.

In the last 12 months, 80.7% of workers, including truck drivers, educators, supervisors and managers, schedulers and forklift drivers, reported having a shortage of skills. While older workers have no interest in learning new skills, younger job seekers aren’t picking up the slack as they don’t see truck driving as an appealing profession.

To be able to meet the current demand, recruitment will need to increase by 150%. Due to this excess of demand, drivers that are working are placed under greater pressure to meet deadlines, carry overweight loads, and drive with improper load restraints – all of which increase risk and the chance of an accident occurring.

5. Technology

Technology has both its perks and its disadvantages. For perks, the overall capability and efficiency of the freight and logistics industry have greatly increased with technology, automation and tracking have decreased cost and increased scale.

On the other hand, technological innovation is the cause of disruption for companies and workers. The biggest challenge, as claimed by 50% of companies, is training workers on how to use new tech and the general lack of a digital culture. There is also the uncertainty surrounding privacy and data security, providing a challenge for 28% of companies, cyber risk presents a real threat – you can’t hack a piece of paper.

What's next?

With each of these issues, there seems to be a common theme of safety – they all increase risks and the likelihood of accidents.

Safety is the top priority for most companies and many have a zero harm goal. How is this accomplished? Largely through knowledge on safe practice and effective training.

We've worked with transport companies to help build their culture of safety and get them closer to zero harm. If this seems right for you but you want know more, check out what we did with Ron Finemore Transport.

These were just a few of the issues that we've noticed, if we missed anything let us know in the comments below!

Tess Lynch

Tess Lynch

Tess is a design savant, fashion leader and a pretty darn good writer. Whether it’s creating digital designs, blogging about learning science or rocking a neck-scarf, Tess can pull it off.

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