Partnership works on driver shortage

READY TO DRIVE: Justine Burt stands next to a Class 4 tip truck at a quarry on Springs Rd.

READY TO DRIVE: Justine Burt stands next to a Class 4 tip truck at a quarry on Springs Rd.

A Canterbury driver training school owner has linked up with the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) to provide a career path for those wanting to drive trucks and heavy vehicles.

Shane McQuinlan leads the practical side of the career training module while CPIT provides some of the theory needed by those loading, unloading and driving the large road transport vehicles.

McQuinlan says there is a substantial truck driver shortage throughout New Zealand and especially so in Canterbury where a buoyant job market is pulling young people in other career directions.

Many existing drivers are over the age of 50 so there is a gap in the industry in terms of younger drivers stepping up.

Also trucking firms are reluctant to invest in training for drivers only to see them then disappear to the "highest bidder", he says.

McQuinlan is a director and part- owner of Mainland Driving School. Its partnership with CPIT takes truck driver students from their car licence to their Class 5 licence.

The course stretches out over nearly half a year once hours of driving experience on the road are added in.

"On our course at the moment the oldest is 43. She jumped from working at a telecommunications company. She'd been there for 12 years working on the computer, web design and that sort of stuff," McQuinlan says.

The course includes 12 weeks of practical training in which the student gain more than 300 hours of experience including close to 200 hours of one-on- one training with an instructor. For example the two sit side by side on transport runs down to Ashburton and other destinations. The students get three weeks driving a Class 2 truck, and three weeks in a Class 4, before moving into six weeks with a Class 5 truck.

Students spend part of their time with a trainer but later get to drive the vehicle unsupervised, as they gain experience.

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They learn to oversee "controlled temperature" vehicles used in the retail and food industry as well as picking up driving skills on unsealed roads. They learn to pull containers in an articulated truck configuration and experience different gearbox styles common in the industry.

The training is towards a national certificate in goods service (heavy vehicle driver) plus classes 2, 4, 5, dangerous goods and forklift endorsements and an occupational safety and health certificate.

The practical training of the course often takes place in working trucks from workplaces including Cool Runnings, Road Metals, Container Transport Services and TNL. The operators of these companies often want first options on the young graduating drivers, McQuinlan says.

The course culminates with students doing a "linehaul" to Oamaru and back.

CPIT business development manager Phil Agnew says the institute's workforce development unit Skills for Canterbury has been running for 18 months with the driving course providing skills needed in the rebuild.

"Just for clarification, Mainland Driving School and their business do (driver) licences and CPIT do a series of qualifications.

"The qualification is a programme of learning - operating the vehicles, the theory to load vehicles, the maintenance."

Truck drivers have the option of buying their own vehicle, essentially creating their own business. For example, he says, one driver paid only $13,000 for a certified tip truck and could charge $115 an hour. "There's enough work there at the minute," he says.

The earthquake rebuild is another focus, adds Agnew.

"The institution really needs to have a focus on the rebuild but Skills Canterbury works right across. Our business touches everything in the rebuild right from the sciences, health, hospitality, the food, tourism, architecture, engineering, construction and all the trades," Agnew says.

CPIT, with 1000 fulltime staff, is also looking at how to help workers transition across different job skills, particularly as the main construction phase within the Canterbury rebuild winds down. It has three "reps" on the road connecting into businesses in the region to check on their needs.

"In construction, we can provide enough workers at the moment. We're not at capacity but we can't get enough people. The [young] people go straight into jobs so we offer lots of flexible pathways where we train and manage in the workplace as well," says Agnew.

The companies that are involved in the rebuild are incredibly busy, he says, so one strategy is to provide training as a longer- term goal.

 - Stuff

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