A drop in sheep producer confidence is weighing heavily on WA's livestock transport industry.
That is according to the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA president Darran Bairstow, who said the pervading uncertainty brought on by the impending ban on sheep live exports by sea, coupled with low sheep prices, had translated to ongoing nervousness about loss of work for transporters and the sector's future.
Mr Bairstow said he had received reports of transporters having loads cancelled at short notice because farmers decided the return on their sheep was not worth the cost of sending them to the saleyards or abattoir.
He said the current situation was compounding challenges already faced by local livestock transporters - including a skilled labour shortage, in addition to rapidly escalating diesel prices and high costs for equipment.
"Having responsibility for livestock on a truck goes beyond the normal responsibilities of a truck driver," Mr Bairstow said.
"Drivers have the added obligation of meeting a range of demanding animal welfare and biosecurity requirements.
"The job is not for everyone and there is a limited pool of people available to do the work."
Mr Bairstow said diesel prices in the Great Southern, for example, had increased by about 80pc since this time in 2020.
He said it was difficult to pass the full extent of these increases on to customers who were experiencing financial pressure themselves.
Additionally, Mr Bairstow said the lack of confidence had translated to tough decisions about new equipment and retaining the existing fleet.
"Local carriers are important contributors to regional communities in addition to providing an essential service to the livestock industry
"We need to make sure that professional operators remain viable, so we preserve the capacity in the industry."
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