Job Prospects... At a glance
Job prospects for truck drivers are good. Road freight movement accounts for 80% of all freight moved within New Zealand, and demand is increasing for experienced heavy vehicle drivers. A range of licences must be gained before people can work in this occupation.
The number of bus and coach driving jobs has increased strongly during the last few years, due to greater use of public transport. There is a high turnover of bus drivers and many in this occupation are nearing retirement. This means more jobs will open up in coming years.
As the cost of entry is relatively low and bus driving does not require post-school qualifications, it offers good prospects for people without strong academic backgrounds.
Due to licensing requirements, generally the youngest someone can enter the sector is 20 years of age.
Drivers drive trucks, vans, buses, taxis, trains, and other mobile vehicles to transport passengers or cargo. They may also steer equipment such as aircraft refuel vehicles or street sweepers.
Drivers are required to hold the appropriate class of vehicle licence. The licence might need endorsements for particular types of work (for example, transporting passengers or dangerous goods) or vehicles (such as tow trucks, fork lifts and other special-type vehicles).
The requirements for licensing are set out by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), and you can find information on how to obtain the licenses on its website.
You can complete an NZTA approved course to reduce the time you have to wait between a learner and a full heavy vehicle class.
Drivers can also obtain specific endorsements to their licences, allowing them to deal with special conditions. In most instances, an employer will meet the cost of a driver gaining endorsements.
Qualifications beyond the appropriate licences and endorsements are not a requirement, but there are several that could be useful for working in the road transport sector, including:
Most national certificates also help students meet the relevant vehicle licensing requirements.
NZTA, commercial driving licensing: www.nzta.govt.nz/commercial-driving
NZTA, getting licences: www.nzta.govt.nz/driver-licences/getting-a-licence
NZTA, endorsements: www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/factsheets/42
MITO New Zealand Incorporated (MITO) is the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) that facilitates on-the-job training for the commercial road transport and passenger services industries.
MITO's on-the-job training programmes will give you the skills needed to be a heavy haulage operator, goods service heavy vehicle driver or log transport operator within the Commercial Road Transport industry. Generally, the training takes around nine to 15 months.
MITO also has on-the-job training programmes to help you gain the skills and knowledge to work in the passenger service sector and drive school or urban buses lawfully and safely. Generally, the training takes around nine to 12 months.
Polytechnics and Private Training Establishments (PTEs) across New Zealand also provide courses for the road transport industry.
The NZTA approved course providers that can help you to obtain licences and endorsements are outlined on the NZTA website.
|On the job training|
*if completed as an employer-funded traineeship there may be no fees for the trainee. Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Costs vary between institutions. Further costs can include materials, textbooks and accommodation.
The least expensive way to train as driver is to become an industry trainee and learn on the job. As a trainee you can earn while gaining a qualification.
Current fees for a MITO traineeship are $1,145 (GST exclusive) per year, which includes all training, training resources and learner support.
Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.
The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.
Truck drivers can earn between $32,000 and $67,000 or higher. Pay varies depending on the type of vehicle and the hours worked. Self-employed truck drivers have the potential to earn higher than the industry average.
School bus drivers (who work part-time, 40 weeks a year) earn considerably less – about $12,000 to $15,000. Some part-time or seasonal drivers (e.g., in the tourism industry) may face periods without work.
In 2016, the estimated average annual income for automobile, bus and rail drivers was around $49,200.
|Estimated Average Income|
Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index
Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the specific category “Truck Drivers”
The number of employed truck drivers has declined slightly in recent years, but is projected to grow by 1.5% per year up to 2021 before slowing to a fall of 0.1% out to 2026.
With fewer young people going into this occupation, the average age of drivers has increased in recent years. This may mean more opportunities for new drivers as older ones retire. There are many opportunities available to young people with an interest in road transport, logistics and heavy-vehicle mechanics.
Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections
The specific occupation truck driver is on Immigration New Zealand's Canterbury skill shortage list, which means that the government is actively encouraging truck drivers from overseas to work in the Canterbury region. The demand is for truck drivers who have a Full Class 4 or 5 Driver Licence and at least three years’ experience driving heavy combination vehicles.
Immigration NZ, skill shortage list: skillshortages.immigration.govt.nz
The number of online job vacancies for the specific occupation truck drivers has increased quickly since 2010. There were about three times as many job ads in December 2017 as in December 2008.
Jobs advertised chart
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment
Driver vacancies are advertised through websites such as Trade Me Jobs, Seek and MITO websites.
Truck driving vacancies are also advertised with the Road Transport Association New Zealand, National Road Carriers Inc., and the New Zealand Trucking Association.
Trade Me Jobs: www.trademe.co.nz/jobs
Road Transport Association NZ: www.rtanz.co.nz
National Road Carriers Inc.: www.natroad.co.nz
New Zealand Trucking Association: www.nztruckingassn.co.nz
Bus and coach drivers often work shifts and rosters. Part-time work is also common (around 40% works part-time) as is work on weekends and public holidays. For tourist coach drivers, the job is busiest in the peak tourist season though work can be slow or non-existent in the off-season.
Truck drivers may transport a huge variety of things, such as freight, logs, dairy products, fuels and chemicals. They may work for companies or for local and regional councils.
Over time, you may end up managing other drivers or becoming self-employed and running your own business. There is also a role for experienced drivers in mentoring and assessing new drivers who are applying for different levels or classes of driving licence, or gaining work experience.
Many heavy truck drivers are self-employed contractors who own their own vehicles and operate on long-term or short-term contracts with companies that need their services.
NZTA’s website has a how-to guide on becoming a self-employed truck driver.
NZTA, Becoming a truck operator or operating a trucking business in New Zealand: www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/getting-started
The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level drivers.
More information on drivers is available on the following websites:
Careers New Zealand: www.careers.govt.nz
Vocational Pathway: youthguarantee.net.nz
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Bus Driving
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Heavy Haulage
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Log Transportation
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Logistics and Freight Forwarding
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Removals - Removalist
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Truck Driving Part 1
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Truck Driving Part 2
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Truck Driving Part 3
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Train Driver
The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.
The occupation of drivers has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:
721 – Mobile Plant Operators
73 – Road and Rail Drivers
891113 – Waterside Worker