The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee has heard a call for a comprehensive review of the truck driver licensing system. The Australian Trucking Association’s National Manager Government Relations and Policy, Bill McKinley called for a review of truck driver licence training and assessment in his evidence at the Aspects of Road Safety in Australia Senate inquiry.
Reflecting the attitude in Canberra to matters surrounding the trucking industry, McKinley made his comments in a sparsely populated Senate Enquiry room, with just two Senators in situ and another ringing in online.
“At the moment, the quality of training and assessment is highly variable,” said McKinley. “There are many excellent trainers, but others train to a price or guarantee how long the course will take, regardless of how competent you are at the end of it.
“Operators are particularly concerned about the variable quality of training in chain of responsibility, load restraint, fatigue management and work health and safety. What we need for heavy vehicle driver licensing is a common set of standards that the states or the NHVR apply. The standards need to be imposed by a body that is responsive to feedback.
“At the same time, at the regulation of providers side, we need a common national system where registered training organisations deliver the training packages they’re supposed to deliver.
“[In our view], the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Minister for Education and Training should convene a joint review with the states of the training, assessment and licensing arrangements for truck drivers generally. This review should explore including these arrangements within the scope of the Heavy Vehicle National Law for the states that are part of that system.”
The ATA are also recommending a review of the provisions allowing overseas licence holders to drive in Australia.
“The rules should firstly require overseas licence holders to obtain an Australian licence within a year, even if they are only in Australia temporarily,” said McKinley. “At present, every state except the NT allows temporary visitors to drive on their overseas licence indefinitely. This could be for years.
“Secondly, there should also be consistent provisions about what happens when an overseas licence holder fails a driving test. In three states at the moment, it’s possible for an overseas licence holder to apply for an Australian drivers licence, go to the driving test, fail, and then keep driving on their overseas licence, even though they just demonstrated conclusively that they are not competent to drive in Australia.
“Finally, overseas licence holders who do not hold an Australian heavy vehicle licence should be banned from driving heavy vehicles for any commercial or occupational purpose. An overseas licence holder should be able to drive a motorhome around Australia, but driving a heavy vehicle for commercial purposes should not be allowed.”