Truck drivers arrive in the workplace with a truck driving license, but have they been properly trained, how important is getting driver training right? Diesel News talks to Peter Anderson, Victorian Transport Association CEO, about a new initiative to get proper training for people working in the trucking industry.
It is an ongoing conundrum that the trucking industry has been dealing with for a long time. The industry needs highly skilled individuals to safely pilot trucks from A to B safely, load and unload them securely and ensure that every aspect of the operation is compliant with the wide array of different rules and regulations. Most of the individuals plying their trade, who are regarded as good operators within the industry are completely unqualified, there is nothing to differentiate them from a person walking in off the street having just paid for a short course enabling them to pass a truck driving test.
One of the organisations which have been at the forefront of trying to get a proper level of training and qualifications within the trucking industry, and in the logistics industry as a whole, has been the VTA, and its CEO, Peter Anderson, with a long history of working in many aspects of the industry is one of the people driving an initiative to improve the level of training in the general trucking industry workforce.
“With 40 years experience in running transport businesses, I’ve got a bit of a background in the trucking industry,” says Peter. “The one thing I’ve noticed all the way through, over the years is how skilled people can be in the jobs that they do, and how little regard we then give then, based on our lack of understanding of what they really do.
“When you speak to any transport operator, the first thing they will tell you is how long they’ve been in the game. It’s almost like this is their qualification. Of course, this is not true, that but it has always been about how long they have been involved.
“The industry itself doesn’t recognise their value. I know a fellow who has been working in the industry for 50 years and was just about to retire, and he has the same status as a bloke who got his semi license yesterday.”
The trucking industry does not recognise any of the high-level skills which its employees demonstrate everyday. Not only is there no recognition of the skills developed over many years, but for anyone wanting to enter the industry, there is no career and qualification path along which they can travel through the industry.
The issue is that not only are we not recognising the skills held within the industry but this lack of recognition of skills is also limiting the number of young people who are coming into the industry, because there is no visible ladder of achievement. As a result, the trucking industry is stuck with a rapidly ageing population, with the average age of a truck driver passing 57.
“We want the average age to be 37, so, how do we make the change?” says Peter. “How do we get females who are enlightened and encouraged by coming into our industry? It really needs to come from people starting when they are young. We can’t get young ones under the current system of licensing, it will not let young people get into our industry.
“I want to be able to sit in front of a group of year 12 students and say, some of you will go and get a degree, some of you will go and get a trade, but some of you might want to come and work in the logistics industry and within three months be earning $60,000 a year at 18 years of age. Within 3 to 5 years, you could be getting $120,000 a year and within 5 to 10 years have your own business.
“Then we need to show them the pathway and show them what they can do with this going forward. Then, all of a sudden, Young people start to come into our industry who are smart, they think and they have the right attitude. That’s what we can get in our industry, but we have got to change the system.”
Four years ago, the VTA embarked on a process to make the change. The first thing to work out was how to teach people and what the industry needed them to be taught. The first target is the licensing system itself and the eventual goal is to have formal qualifications at every level of the industry. People will not need to go to university to study a subject in order to qualify to work in the trucking industry but will instead remain within industry and achieve the qualifications as part of their working life.
The VTA looked around to other countries to find out what they did in terms of driver training. A good example was found in Ontario, Canada, where a new scheme was started after a horrific crash in which a poorly trained driver run into a bus full of students killing all 18 of them. The scheme which was developed in the aftermath of this disaster involved drivers undergoing 103 hours of training.
“It’s the best course in the world,” says Peter. “So what we have done is we have hybridised it into an Australian version. The VTA got government support and we have been delivering that to the industry for the last 2.5 years. It has brought 75 drivers into the industry, who were work ready straight after the course.
“Most people get their license today are told do not come back by an operator until they have got a couple of years of experience, but if you can’t get a job, you can’t get experience. Nobody will let you jump into it $300,000 truck just because you have a license, you’ll have to prove yourself through the experience you already have, that you can drive that truck.
“What we are doing in the course is delivering drivers who are job ready. they have spent eight days behind the wheel. They got a license in the first half day of training, the rest of the course is preparing them for work. Of those first 75 drivers not one of them has lost their job and not one of them has had accident. They go into the job with the right attitude and skill level.”
The way the course is set up it explains to the students exactly what the responsibilities are of the person behind the wheel and then develop those skills within the student to enable them to carry out those responsibilities safely and efficiently. They have to drive in a number of different scenarios in order to learn to deal with the normal daily life for a truck driver. On the course they would drive at night, in built up areas, around the wharf as well is out on the open highway.
The Victorian government has come in behind this training course and has promised $1 million each year for the next four years to support the program. The government have also committed to review the licensing system in the state and Peter Anderson has been asked to chair the committee to review the possible changes to the licensing regime.
The aim is to deliver a competency skill based program that will deliver a heavy vehicle license and get 18-year-olds driving trucks.
“We want to see 18-year-old driving trucks,” says Peter.” It will still be graduated process, you will still go from rigids to semis to multi combination, but the ability to move from one stage to the next is dependent upon the number of hours you spend behind the wheel of a truck. We are looking for at least 600 hours behind the wheel of a particular truck before being able to go to the next level. It won’t be time based it will be skill based.”