General News

21 September, 2022

Sugar hit hard by lack of drivers

UP to 20 per cent of cane destined for the Moss-man Sugar Mill could remain in the ground and unharvested as the mill suffers from a crippling truck driver shortage.

By Rhys Thomas

Sugar hit hard by lack of drivers - feature photo

With the local sugar cane season well under-way, the mill has been locked in a battle to get and retain drivers to haul sugar cane, with many drivers instead choosing to work on mine sites across the State.

By comparison, the Tableland Mill overseen by MSF Sugar has managed to retain 98 per cent of their drivers by offering well above award wages however many growers on the Tablelands transport their cane down to Mossman to be processed.

The Mossman Mill is managed by Far Northern Milling and outsource their haulage to Logitrix Management Service while Cube Logistics is contracted for the Tableland Sugar Mill.

Far Northern Milling chief executive officer Bronwyn Dwyer said if they were unable to find drivers, they could face significant losses which could have dire consequences on the mill’s viability.

“Due to the critical driver shortage and predicted wet weather conditions over the coming months, there is a high probability of standover cane, which could see 10-20 per cent of the crop remaining in the paddock unharvested,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Effectively, two years’ worth of income for the growers will be lost, not only will this severely impact the growers’ bottom line, but that cane doesn’t go through the mill either and so the Mossman Mill, that’s already doing it tough, loses substantial income.”

Far Northern Milling is the second largest employer in the Douglas Shire, with 150 full-time employees during the season and 570 external seasonal jobs.

Paul Coveny of Logitrix Management Service manages the transport and logistics for the fleet and he has recently lost two drivers to the lucrative mining sector.

“We need 10 drivers immediately and another 30 in the coming months,” he said.

“We are competing with the mining sector and we need urgent help to fill these empty seats, the trucks can’t sit in idle for long, because once the weather sets in, that’s it for the season.

“The clock is well and truly ticking.

“Finding truck drivers to get this crop off is critical not only for our industry but for prosperity of our whole community.”

Cube Logistics Tableland Mill site manager Ty Bensilum said he experienced trouble getting drivers for the Tableland Mill in the beginning of the season but nothing that would impact its production.

He says Cube Logistics managed to retain 98 per cent of its drivers and continue operating as per normal by offering well above award wages.

“We have had a few drivers come and go but we have maintained about 98 per cent of our drivers,” he said.

“When we get into the end of October, start of November, we run into issues losing drivers be-cause it is seasonal work so they may start looking for alternative work to go to before they finish with the mill.”

Kennedy MP Bob Katter recently submitted a report detailing the critical labour shortages affecting his electorate and provided numerous recommendations to address it.

“We have come to the conclusion that if we aren’t able to get a workforce in Australia to do these essential jobs, then we will enter into discussions with Government to get migrants in to do the jobs,” he said.

“Conversations have been held with the Min-ister for Employment and will continue until we can get a fair go for our regional, rural and remote areas.”


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