Truck generic, generic truck, truck photo
Truck generic, generic truck, truck photo Kirstin Payne

A truckie's thoughts on a licencing shake-up

FIRSTLY, thanks for a great publication. It allows us to keep in touch with the industry many of us older guys on the precipice of retirement love so much.

I would like to make some comments regarding the articles relating to driver training and licensing (BR, June 29).

To a certain extent I agree wholeheartedly although I feel there are several issues that have impacted the industry and created a good deal of the issues in its current climate.

I have been involved in several areas of the transport industry during the past 45-plus odd years as a driver and owner-driver.

When I started driving trucks 40-50 years ago, to my knowledge there were no driving schools.

I borrowed a truck from a friend, fronted at the local police station and sat successfully for my practical driving test..

I sat my licence in a Ford eight-tonner with a petrol motor, five-speed box and two-speed diff, no load needed.

The licence I gained then allowed me to drive all classes of vehicle.

Throughout the years, the licence classifications changed but no more tests were required.

I just produced a letter from my employer stating that I currently operated that class of vehicle and you received the new licence in the mail.

Back then, there were a number of local transport carriers carting from the wharves (almost all containers in those days were decanted by wharfies and transport did the rest) and rail.

There were a lot of opportunities available to get into the industry.

I had a licence and no other knowledge of anything else.

When I started, I learnt how to load, to rope and chain and secure loads, how to tarp and how to look after and respect the vehicle.

I started an apprenticeship.

For most guys that started in that era, their apprenticeship continues as we try to keep up with technology.   Of course, nowadays there are many training providers, both private and Registered Training Organisations.    I feel the unfortunate situation here is that the government bodies seem to believe that, as an RTO, the quality of training is of a lot higher standard than that delivered by a private trainer but however, if that same privateer works for an RTO, then the standard is fine.    There was a statement made regarding the issuance of a qualification like a Certificate 3 or 4 in Road Transport - at the end of the day it is a piece of paper and not held in high regard by employers.   I have employed many drivers over the years and a certificate in road transport would not sway me towards employing them based on that certificate.   An RTO's core income stream may not be from driver training and therefore may not be their strongest focus.    Then there is the cost of putting training vehicles on the road, the purchase price, fit-out to meet government requirements and regula- tions, insurance, fuel, main- tenance (especially clutches and brakes), the list goes on.    Hence the high cost for students to fund their training and this results in being out of reach for most, unfortunately. It is the genuine, I-want-to-drive- trucks are the ones this impacts most.   Then, of course, there are those that are funded by the government and generally these are the ones that just go through the motions to maintain the unemployment cheques to keep coming their way.   I have had applicants inquire about a licence upgrade from HR to HC, I ask: the question "Do you have any road ranger experience?"    Answer: "I don't know, I have driven a Range Rover but not a crash box".    "What make of truck did you drive that may help?"    Answer: "Not sure I think it had four wheels at the back though".    Something is not right here.    I remember a time where I had trained a young lad to get his licence, I approached an owner of a transport company and asked to be able to continue his training within the company at no cost to them as he was a government-funded trainee.   The student was taught to pick and identify freight from the description on delivery dockets, handle and load freight with a forklift, secure and tarp, deliver freight, proof of delivery signed, pallet transfers, etc, and, after about two weeks, he was offered a permanent position.   Outcome = another apprentice. He is still working in the industry to this day, 18 years later, driving multi-combinations for a respected company.   If my memory serves me correctly, when I started driver training I was made aware of a program, or a training levy where major transport companies funded training although, most of this was conducted in house.   Perhaps a similar type of incentive could be reintroduced where the major transport companies would contribute x cents a kilometre travelled annually or based on fleet size or driver turnovers, etc, with some approach to government to match the funding under an apprenticeship scheme.    Applicants could be selected by companies based on standard employment requirements, the applicants could then be pooled and trained in all aspects of the industry. This pool of drivers could be shared among the companies.    Of course this idea needs tweaking but could be a good grounding.   I guess the days of being a hands-on driver and learning all the skills are long gone, but, back then, it did mean something to be able to do minor maintenance, changing wheels, loading and unloading gave you a true sense of achievement when you delivered the freight.    Some drivers today wouldn't have to change a flat tyre because there is no spare, as bosses would rather the weight be paying freight    The industry has changed dramatically over the years and so have the attitudes and goals of the upcoming generations but it is a great industry with many opportunities and needs to be promoted positively by everyone associated with it, the industry both past and present, and as an industry we need to come together to work out this issue so everyone benefits.   Col Brown

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