HAVE you ever given consideration to doing an advanced Heavy Vehicle Defensive Driving Course? If you haven't then maybe you should.
Undertaking an advanced defensive skills course is one of the most important things that any driver of any discipline can do to improve their own safety and to acquire the skills that may help them to avoid a potentially dangerous situation turning worse.
While we all claim to be "professional drivers", how many of us have taken the next step to improve our skills?
Admittedly licence upgrades and testing now involve more scrutiny than 30 years ago but testing still operates on the same basic principle, you are only assessing an individual to achieve the competence level of the minimum set standard.
This is where the system has failed as the emphasis became about licence upgrades with the industry like many others struggling with manpower shortages.
This is no more evident in the fact that a driver after 12 months experience on a 2 axle 15 ton medium rigid can upgrade their licence to a 9+ axle B-double or road train with multiple articulation points and weighing anywhere between 50 to a 115 tons!
It's the equivalent of taking a first-year apprentice and after only 12 months handing them their tradesman's certificate. Yes they may be able to operate the vehicle and display skills to the required minimum standard, but when things turn pear- shaped these inexperienced drivers can be found wanting in both skills and attitude.
But it's not only the inexperienced that could learn from an advanced defensive driving course but also many experienced drivers can benefit from this style of training as well.
At this point I can hear some of the comments "I've been driving for 20 years, these courses can't teach me nothing".
Well I have heard that from drivers before they have attended courses and then listened to their totally different attitude and stories of what they have learnt and how to implement the knowledge learnt afterwards.
Advanced courses are not about performing Hollywood-style stunt manoeuvres. It's about learning techniques to help a driver understand how the vehicle and its systems operates to reduce breakdowns, wear and tear, trip times and fuel usage through smoother driving as well as awareness of risks and other traffic on the road, road rules and of course skills that can potentially help avoid accident and injury.
These courses debunk much of the incorrect knowledge and practices that have entrenched themselves in the psyche of the industry.
The best example is that most drivers are of the belief that to recover from a jack-knife situation that you use the trailer handpiece to apply the trailer brakes .... wrong. On a skidpan or slippery surface you actually apply the trailer brakes by the handpiece to induce a jack-knife, in fact in most cases all a driver is doing on a bitumen road by pulling down the handpiece is committing themselves to the impending accident.
When I became a full-time driver I completed the Mt Cotton Defensive Driving Course stages 1 and 2. I can confirm that the skills learnt made me a better and safer driver.
I once had a driver who I felt could benefit from training of this type.
When I enquired about enrolling him in an advanced course, to my dismay I was informed that they no longer ran it. But they could upgrade him to a MC! That typifies where we have gone wrong in training.
For our own and the public's safety, shouldn't we be aiming to put better trained professional drivers on the road?
DECA currently advertise a Defensive Truck Driving course.