After many years in the industry, Warren Smith has seen it all in trucking and works using a training philosophy with truck drivers to instil a culture of professionalism and develop an appreciation of good driver skills in operators.
/Relieved after the stressful couple of days going through the ProDriver course at the DECA training facility in Shepparton, I sat down with the DECA Transport Heavy Vehicle Manager, Warren Smith and asked him about the thinking behind the course and where driver training is heading in Australia.
In DECA’s experience, the smaller trucking operations send individual drivers for training, while the bigger companies train the trainers and take it from there themselves. Driver trainers have to come back every two years for a two day refresher to keep them up to date.
“In the last six months we have put 32 driver trainers though the ProDriver Five Day Driver Trainer Course,” says Warren. “They are licensed to train drivers in their companies using our intellectual property. That’s the best way to get the message out there without the bigger costs. One of the advantages for the companies, is they can do the assessments on the job. The driver can be earning a living while the assessment is taking place.
“We have had one company where the original idea was for us to train their trainer and then he would use our IP with their 160 or so drivers, but they liked what they saw and we did a couple of their drivers directly. Then they turned round and made the decision to get us to do all of the drivers. They still have a trainer who is ProDriver accredited and so they can keep up with the message and continuous assessment.
“Where ProDriver adds a bit to previous driver training systems is that it’s about the mechanics of driving, not just the theoretical defensive driving techniques. ProDriver is standalone, but a lot of companies we are working with also do the rollover awareness training course we run. Particularly the fuel carriers.”
The training landscape in Australia has been in flux in recent years. There has been a realisation about the inadequacies of the current truck licensing regime and efforts are in train to come up with a new scheme. In preparation for whatever the powers that be decide to replace the current licensing regime with, DECA are already on the move.
“This is where our Superior Heavy Vehicle Licensing program is coming into effect,” says Warren. “We have long been involved in looking at licensing standards. We are in agreement with the general population that the licensing regime is nowhere near good enough.
“We have designed SHVL. It’s a six week program initially, in phase one. They go away at the end of the course with several units of competence in essential learnings for people working in our industry. They get the license they are eligible for, they learn load placement and load security, then there’s Basic Fatigue Management and how to fill out the Work Diary correctly.We are getting them job ready in the six weeks.
“In phase two of the program we offer a full Certificate lll in Driver Operations. It’s up to their new employer if they want to continue down this path, but it does attract some government funding to help out.
“Phase three sees them coming back and doing the ProDriver course and the Rollover Awareness Program. If you look at it holistically, if they did all three phases of the SHVL, they would be as well trained as they could possibly be. Gathering experience along the way.”
A group of young drivers happened to be training at Shepparton at the same time as the ProDriver course we attended. They were working with a loaded heavy rigid out on the road and getting the theoretical back-up in the classrooms.
“Currently we are getting Victorian Government funding for the SHVL and unemployed people are getting the course for free as a result,” says Warren. “Western Australia and other places are also looking at our model and talking amongst themselves about funding opportunities. So, we are talking to them about it.
“It’s our vision that SHVL could become the ideal traineeship into road transport. What we are doing will exceed whatever any new licensing scheme will look like. Our aim is to attract funding and encourage people into the industry. It’s good for the industry and good for the individual.”