The answer to who is moving our machinery has two distinct answers: the logistics professionals and the drivers.
When you hop in your new CAT, Komatsu, Hitachi, John Deere or Caterpillar (and remember to give us a call when you need to arrange the equipment finance), you know they weren’t built in Australia. So how did they get here? Chances are they arrived in a cargo ship organised by a former member of the Australian armed forces. Over the past 20 years the Australian armed forces have been involved in conflicts and rescue effort across the globe, from Afghanistan to the Solomon Islands, East Timor to Iraq, with backup in Kuwait.
That has meant a gigantic task of moving heavy trucks from tiny islands to desert posts and then learning how to drive them in rugged conditions in all temperatures and road surfaces. Most of the ports have been in the third world, so these soldiers have learnt to be highly adaptable. They also need to know all the complex import and export regulations.
Their training has included logistics, project management, public safety, security operations, resource management and many more – as long as your arm! They make the perfect logistics experts and are now being hired worldwide, winning awards for their service.
So that’s who is moving the machinery around the globe, so the next question is who is driving them?
As the chaps went belting up the highway to the mines, it left many Aussie girls to pick up the mantle and drive the bobcats and forklifts. As they proved their driving mettle, their employers began breaking down any pre-conceived ideas and started training them in the bigger machinery from graders to excavators and road trains.
Most of the girls started either as bus drivers or working in landscape businesses where they were first employed as labourers, weeding and watering, and handling reception. But as their boss saw them driving and handling various equipment and the ride-on mowers, they gave them a go on the forklift and then maybe a small grader or crane. From there they went for an HR licence and pretty soon after that they start eyeing the $80,000 salaries in the mines.
The challenge then is to make the move to construction, as the number of truck drivers in the mines is starting to reduce because of the remote controlled vehicles now moving slowly up and down the big coal pits.
Besides a common belief that women are more careful with the big vehicles (despite the former prejudice against women drivers on the roads), the demand for female drivers began in the 2008. It was then when the transport industry expressed concern about the ageing workforce in the truck driving sector and the departure of drivers re-skilling in the mines, and so a call went out for female drivers. At that stage the transport industry and the unions described a driver shortfall crisis.
Both the Victorian Transport Association and the Transport Workers Union called for employers to create a female-friendly environment.
Linfox trucking magnate Lindsay Fox said he was surprised by the women in the industry, admitting that he had been a male chauvinist pig! But the female drivers proved him wrong. And like him, many of the females who put their hands up were children of truck drivers.
The female drivers really solved a problem for the trucking companies who frequently had trucks sitting idle because of lack of drivers.
While the construction of the mines has slowed as they have completed the construction of the donga villages and other infrastructure, the constant repair to roads across the country (and if you haven’t seen it go for a drive in Central Queensland and The Pilbara) is providing new driving opportunities for men and women across the country.
Image credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Road_Train_3.JPG