Driving a truck is a skill that needs to be developed
WHEN it is easier to get a truck licence than a car licence, it is like offering someone an NBA contract but telling them they're not good enough to play a pick-up game at the local playground.
At the moment, 92 per cent of those who go for a heavy vehicle licence get it, but only 65 per cent of people applying for their car licence are successful.
For Victorian Transport Association CEO Peter Anderson it points to a huge problem in professionalism for the transport industry.
"So why is it easier to drive a truck? It's not, the system's flawed,” Mr Anderson said.
But rather than wait for government to change the system, the VTA developed a training program of its own that has so far produced 75 graduates, all of whom walked straight into jobs because the benefits for employers are obvious.
"Not one of them has lost their job or walked away from their employer, and not one of them has had an accident,” Mr Anderson said.
"They still really need to go through years of experience to really get the hang of it... but we've got a better basis on which to build a more capable driver, and a driver looking for a career.
"We believe 18-year-olds can be driving trucks if we teach them the right way.
"It (the training program) delivers a safer, more competent, skilled driver to our industry.
"Once we start putting those people on the road, people will look at our industry differently.
"Driving a truck is a skill that needs to be developed.”
The Driver Delivery Program is an eight-day course that covers safety, fatigue management, chain of responsibility, occupational health and safety, load restraint, driver attitude, risk reduction techniques and road craft.
Armstrongs Driver Education delivers the program for the VTA for a qualification in heavy rigid synchromesh or heavy combination standards from its Thomastown base, north of Melbourne.
"It's actually about changing the industry from within,” Mr Anderson said.
"And then that produces the sort of outcomes that we will all enjoy, such as educated, skilled drivers with the right attitude who don't have accidents - and who conduct themselves in public the way we all expect.”
The Victorian Government has promised $1million a year for the next four years to fund the program.
Lilydale mother of two Lisa Barker was the 50th graduate of the VTA Driver Delivery Program and now works for Logical Staffing Solutions, based in Hallam in Melbourne's southeast.
Lisa, who has a heavy vehicle driver's licence, said the course had helped her further her career.
"This was a fantastic experience and has helped me to develop the knowledge and skills of the heavy vehicle industry,” Lisa said.
"I had previously held a heavy rigid non-syncro licence but was forced to forego a job opportunity at that time and recently learnt that there was a shortage of heavy rigid work, but a lot for heavy combinations, so I applied for this course.
"At Armstrongs, I got to drive all three of its heavy vehicles. It was good to get my licence in the non-synchro Freightliner, but also to have the opportunity to drive the auto Freightliner and auto Kenworth, as they are all different to drive.
"There were differences in dimensions, power, clutch control, mirror positioning and front, so you had to make adjustments and it was great to get to drive these various heavy vehicles.”
Lisa received one-on-one training at Armstrongs and was surprised at the depth of experience it offered licence candidates.
"I did some country driving and a lot of inner-city driving, so it was good to experience the different driving scenarios as most tend to use the same area when you have your licence testing,” Lisa said.
"Armstrongs went above and beyond by including truck stops and had me reversing vehicles in and out of spots and around other trucks. This was particularly helpful as it would be something I would need to come across when driving and knowing how to navigate that.
"After gaining my heavy vehicle licence I now have great confidence in getting out onto the road.”