The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) is advocating for a heavy vehicle licensing regime that prioritises training over experience.
This is in response to Austroads’ National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework Consultation RIS (Regulation Impact Statement), where the VTA reiterated industry concerns that the current licensing system does not produce the safety standards or skill levels that meets community and industry expectations.
The VTA submission advocates for focused training at the front end of the licensing process, with adequate time to ensure candidates are well trained before being engaged as a professional driver.
It also reaffirmed VTA’s support for young people to be trained at an early age as a heavy vehicle driver, putting it at odds with Austroads and its Consultation RIS.
VTA CEO, Peter Anderson, said that under the current time-based graduated system, an aspiring driver can only attain the entry level heavy vehicle license at the earliest age of 19 after holding a car license for a year.
“It then takes another year to graduate to the next level and a further year still before a license can be granted for all heavy vehicles on Australian roads,” he said.
“This has led to a situation where the necessary skills and competencies are being learned on-the-job rather than prior to taking the job.
“This is one of the basic deficiencies with the current licensing system, whose focus is on assessment rather than effective heavy vehicle driver training.”
In its submission, the VTA expressed concern that heavy vehicle licensing is not sufficiently focused on risk, presenting safety challenges for all road users. According to Anderson, heavy vehicle crashes are serious because of their size and weight, regardless of who is at fault.
“It is the skill, knowledge and training of the driver that maintains a safe outcome for all road users,” he said.
“However, while the current system satisfies the criteria of our institutionalised licensing system, it is not recognised by industry as being able to produce competent, safe, low risk drivers.”
The submission was also critical of statutory authorities’ inability to provide license applicants with the skills, knowledge and training required to ensure they can drive a heavy vehicle in a safe manner.
“Given licensing services are consumed by those wanting to enter the road transport industry, heavy vehicle licensing should also adequately prepare applicants by ensuring that they receive adequate Behind the Wheel training in driving environments they are likely to be exposed to on a daily basis,” Anderson said.
As a result, the VTA rejected Austroads’ proposal for lack of practical time behind the wheel.
“The proposed six to 10 hours behind the wheel training for rigid license holders is totally insufficient and does not provide adequate time to effectively cover the 130 plus areas and competencies required to produce a safe, low risk heavy vehicle driver,” Anderson said.
“This is a major limitation and deficiency of the Austroads proposal.”