Licensing overhaul is long overdue

PETER Anderson wishes the bureaucratic wheels would turn a lot faster than they are in Victoria.

The Victorian Transport Association chief executive said he had the backing of the relevant transport ministers for his proposed changes to improve the state’s woefully inadequate training standards for new drivers.

But it’s been a frustratingly slow process so far to get the rules tightened, he said.

For the last 18 months, Mr Anderson has chaired the ministerial advisory committee charged with fine-tuning details of reforms that would make it mandatory for at least five days of training.

Those changes are now on hold as the government hires a third-party consultant to undertake an independent review of the recommendations.

“At the start of the year we were hoping to have it all finished by the end of 2020,” Mr Anderson said.

“It doesn’t take another month to write a paper, three months to appoint a consultant and another four months to have a meeting because we’re all busy.”

After a tragic few days on Victoria roads – and a spike in the number of crashes around Australia – Mr Anderson is now fearful of what’s to come when COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift.

“At the moment roads are uncongested and they’re getting used to travelling around at normal speed, but what happens when all of a sudden it’s stop-start again,” he said.

“There’s going to be a lot of tension, and I’m worried because when a heavy vehicle is in an accident, it’s a big accident.”

Mr Anderson said the industry had a responsibility to the broader community.

At present, he said their safety was being compromised by a training system that was fundamentally flawed.

“Giving someone just five hours of their time [for training] in return for $1000, then to be sanctioned to go out in public in a heavy vehicle is just not good enough.”

Mr Anderson said his committee had been reviewing results from the alternative the VTA developed three years ago with RTO Armstrongs Driver Education called the Driver Delivery Program, an industry-leading eight-day course with 154 points of assessment.

“We’ve put 100 people through it, all have careers and no-one has had a single incident,” he said.

Mr Anderson said his committee’s review was now proposing the government adopted a five-day training system for experienced drivers, and six days for those new to the road. “This is going to reduce lives being lost on our roads in heavy vehicle accidents,” he said.

“We’re not blaming heavy vehicle drivers. What we are doing though is saying, ‘hang on a second, be better prepared, back off, don’t put yourself in a situation where someone runs into you. Do different things, be a little softer, pull back a little bit more’.

“I’ve been on a white horse on this for the last three or four years – the thing is we just don’t prepare people to drive heavy vehicles on the road, before they get on the road.”

Victoria’s Minister for Roads, Road Safety and the TAC Jaala Pulford told Big Rigs that the government is currently undertaking the Victorian Review of Heavy Vehicle Licensing and Employment Pathways.

“We’ll continue to work closely with the transport industry through this Review – and we’re looking forward to considering the outcomes once they are complete.”

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