Federal call for more rigorous driver training

GUIDELINES NEEDED: Multiple investigations into the transport industry have called for greater oversight of driver training.
GUIDELINES NEEDED: Multiple investigations into the transport industry have called for greater oversight of driver training. Kirstin Payne

THE Federal Government is demanding that its own education regulator "take a more active role” in the delivery of heavy vehicle training following the release of a senate report into road safety.

Trucking organisations, however, are also calling for training guidelines to become standardised across the nation.

The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry into aspects of road safety in Australia handed down its recommendation that the Australian Skills Quality Authority become a more vocal voice in the transport industry.

"Throughout the inquiry, the committee's overriding concern has rested with preparing heavy vehicle drivers for the real challenges on our roads,” the report read.

"Despite some progress towards harmonisation and improved standards, witnesses have provided evidence of a gap between the ideal and reality of heavy vehicle training in Australia.”

The report confirms the findings of related research conducted by National Transport Insurance, which called for a stronger focus on training to minimise the risk of road accidents.

The National Truck Accident Research Centre, an independent research facility funded by the NTI, found "young and/or inexperienced licence holders' driver training and skills evaluation does not adequately cover highway applications”.

Both reports reflect attitudes within the trucking community, with a Bigs Rigs poll showing 81 per cent of voters agreed current requirements for a heavy vehicle licence weren't tough enough, while 34 per cent said a driver needed 100hours or more of instruction to gain their heavy rigid licence.

The calls for greater training, however, have also been met with a push for consistent levels of education across the country.

Australian Trucking Association chief of staff Bill McKinley said a standardised training regime would better spot problems and move quickly to rectify the situation.

"We do need to make sure that the basic standards are the same and that the national interaction between the (Registered Training Office) - who deliver the training and in many cases can access government funding to do that - and the state regulatory arms happen on a consistent and direct basis so that when action is needed, it happens straight away,” Mr McKinley said.

Scott's Transport safety and compliance manager Phillip Forster said the lack of unity across the states and territories was causing "great disparity”.

"In our tests that we are checking ourselves, we are finding great disparity in the testing regimes in all the states,” Mr Forster said.

"I think that something needs to be done to make them all the same. For example, in many states a B-double driver does not have to back his truck to get a licence.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Warwick Burrows of BC Training, who said education practices quickly changed from state line to state line.

"Our real problem comes where there are cross- border differences between the expected quality or assessment criteria,” MrWarwick said.

"You can, for example, go to Queensland and get your B-double licence and come back in 50 hours across the border, change your licence quickly enough and drive down with a New South Wales MC licence and not have done any real experience in a lesser or greater truck, be it HC or whatever.

"Up there they can get an HR licence, have someone sign a letter and take it into Roads up there. They give them a B-double and away they go.”

Topics:  driver training education training truck

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