Big Mack gives appetite for careers
Sparking the interest of young people to consider a career in the growing transport industry takes intervention at an early age.
Certainly, the non-glamorous field of transport will change, evolve, grow and expand.
If nothing else, the simplicity of growing communities will drive that — and trucks will be at both ends of the supply chain.
Given our abysmally weak rail network, trucks are the future.
After watching Volvo Group chief executive Peter Voorhoeve commit some big dollars to raising the profile of driver training and recruitment, I thought it was my turn to have a shot at bringing potential candidates into contact with the opportunities transport offers.
Some key points to make are that some of Australia’s biggest and most successful companies are logistics groups.
Within their organisations, there are places for almost all trades and professions, from mechanical development to IT, and a rapidly expanding investment in human resources, particularly the psychology of job satisfaction and high performance.
Drivers represent a crucial but relatively small component of an efficient transport operation and there is a shortage of capable, professional drivers who are prepared to learn and develop skills with new fuel-saving technology and safety equipment.
I was presenting to a youth activity group in Armadale for one of their vocational training sessions. First, I needed an attention grabber to underline the industry’s significance.
I called Truck Centre WA dealer principal Phil Winkless
“Hey Phil, I’m doing a presentation to a youth group on opportunities in the transport industry and I think it would help to take a big and brassy prime mover along to stir them up.”
“I’ve got just the thing,” Mr Winkless replied.
On the day of the event, I picked up a brand new Mack Super-Liner out of the dealer’s inventory. There wasn’t any sign-writing on it — not even the bull bar or the turntable had been fitted yet.
But even in stark white, any big Mack tends to draw you in.
It was mine-site prepped and road-train rated — to 131 tonnes — so the twin stainless- steel exhaust stacks were matched to twin intakes with strobes on top.
It had 600hp linked to a 12-speed Mdrive automated manual transmission and a whopping 3200Nm of torque. The new 60-inch sleeper was super-impressive.
Heading south bobtail (truckie lingo for when you don’t have a trailer attached), the Super-Liner almost idled along Tonkin Highway.
The gearbox smarts meant it knew it was unladen, so torque only really opened up in 12th gear, when it just surged from 80km/h to 100km/h in a blink.
When we headed out of the rooms to the truck, it had just gone dark and with the running lights on and interior lit up, the Mack did its job.
“Wow, that’s so cool.”
As the kids climbed through the cab and sleeper, I was able to show them more than just the fridge and power outlets.
Some of the technology drivers use to maximise productivity caught a lot of interest.
Hopefully enough to have them thinking that a career in the transport industry just might have a place on their personal radar.
As Mr Voorhoeve has emphasised, we don’t just have a driver shortage; the industry has a skills shortage as well.
Additionally, the impression non-industry people have of truck driving is often negative and driving carries little of the prestige many young people aspire to in a career.
Realistically, most drivers run the smaller rigs that keep cities and suburbs alive.
But even there, cloud technology will draw younger, more tech-savvy people into roles that pay well and offer significant career growth.
Mr Winkless and his Volvo/Mack/UD and Hyundai teams deserve plaudits for supporting and encouraging a forward view of the industry.
But just as important would be cadetships at logistics groups that would also help put a career in transport in the frame for today’s school, trade and university students, whatever their growing skill set.