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LCQ14: Cross-boundary container truck drivers

     Following is a question by the Hon Miriam Lau Kin-yee and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Legislative Council meeting today (January 26):

Question :

     It has been reported that the throughput of Hong Kong's container freight industry in 2010 has resumed to the level in 2008 before the outbreak of the financial tsunami.  Yet, there is a shortage of container truck drivers as many of them have switched to other trades in view of poor prospects during times of economic downturn, resulting in the situation of "trucks lacking drivers and cargos needing carriage".  Even though the remuneration of cross-boundary container truck drivers has correspondingly been adjusted upward, only a few of them have switched back to the trade, and they are getting old.  If no improvement is made, not only will the transportation cost increase, but the competitiveness of Hong Kong's container freight industry will also be affected.  Further, upon the completion of cross-boundary transport infrastructure projects (including the completion of the works in respect of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Main Bridge in 2015 and the dredging of the Kwai Tsing container basin and its approach channels in 2014), as well as the implementation of various measures to enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong's logistics industry, there will be an even greater demand for cross-boundary truck drivers.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the respective numbers of drivers working in the cross-boundary container freight industry in each of the past three years (set out in the table below);

Age (years)          2008       2009       2010
-----------          ----       ----       ----
below 20
20 to 29
30 to 39
40 to 49
50 to 59
60 or above

(b) whether it has assessed Hong Kong logistics industry's demand for cross-boundary container truck drivers in the coming five years; if so, of the assessment outcome;

(c) what short-term measures the authorities have to relieve the current shortage of cross-boundary container truck drivers, and whether they have considered providing subsidies for drivers' applications for cross-boundary container truck driving licences, offering programmes for cross-boundary container truck drivers under the Employees Retraining Scheme or the Skills Upgrading Scheme, as well as importing Mainland drivers; if so, of the details of such measures; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) what long-term measures the authorities have to attract more new drivers to join the trade, so as to dovetail with the future development of the container freight industry?



(a) Any person who wishes to drive a cross-boundary container truck must hold a valid driving licence for articulated vehicles and the relevant Closed Road Permit issued by the Transport Department (TD).  According to the data of the TD, the number of holders of the said licences and permits (note) in the past three years are listed in the annex.

(b) The statistics indicate that currently about half of cross-boundary containers are handled by trucks, while the rest is shipped by river trade vessels.  The "Study on Hong Kong Port Cargo Forecasts 2005/2006" projected that Hong Kong's container throughput would continue to have a moderate growth between 2006 and 2030.  In addition, the commissioning of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will further expand Hong Kong's cargo hinterland to the western part of the Pearl River Delta, thereby creating more business opportunities for the industry.  We therefore believe that there will be continued demand for cross-boundary container truck drivers from the local logistics industry.

(c) and (d) The consolidated reply from the Labour and Welfare Bureau and relevant departments including the Labour Department to parts (c) and (d) of the question is as follows:

     The TD has been closely monitoring the operation of the cross-boundary container freight industry.  In response to the rise in demand for container truck drivers subsequent to the rebound in cross-boundary land throughput in 2010, the TD will proactively discuss with the industry so as to expedite the flow of employment information and facilitate the adjustment of the labour market to dovetail with the manpower demand arising from market changes.  Employers in the industry can also make use of the free employment services of the Labour Department to fill the vacancies of container truck drivers.

     Separately, courses on specific skills training are offered to in-service cross-boundary container truck drivers under the current Skills Upgrading Scheme (SUS) to enhance their employability and competitiveness in the industry.  With the imminent exhaustion of the funding of the SUS, the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) has begun taking over the SUS by stages.  It will run the above courses for cross-boundary container truck drivers in 2011-12 under its Skills Upgrading Scheme Plus.  In-service cross-boundary container truck drivers who meet the ERB's eligibility criteria may choose from over forty training courses on the vocational skills and generic skills of the cross-boundary container freight industry and related industries.  The ERB will also consider offering some of these courses to non-trade practitioners so as to facilitate them in joining the industry.  The TD will continue to review the training needs of the industry in consultation with the trade, and will liaise with the ERB and other organisations on the matter.

     As regards the proposal to import Mainland drivers, it will have negative implications for our society and local drivers' livelihood.  Moreover, subsidising one particular type of professional drivers for applying driving licences will be unfair to other applicants.  As such, the Government will not consider these two proposals at the present time.

     The SAR Government will continue to maintain close communication with the cross-boundary container freight industry on issues for concern with a view to supporting its long-term development.

Note: The TD has no statistics on drivers actually engaged in the cross-boundary container freight industry.

Ends/Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:00


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