ATA pushes new driver licensing scheme

Trucking lobby calls for radical change to driver licensing process to fast-track development and combat skills shortages

ATA pushes new driver licensing scheme
ATA pushes new driver licensing scheme
By Brad Gardner | March 12, 2010

The nation’s peak trucking lobby is calling for a new truck licensing system to fast-track driver development and fend off other industries from pinching its workers.

As work continues on a national licensing framework based on competency standards, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) wants an additional scheme as an alternative to making potential drivers wait for a set time before advancing.

The ATA says the current method of making someone with a car licence wait two years before applying for a heavy rigid and the one-year wait to move from rigids to semi-trailers is a barrier to attracting and keeping workers.

Under the ATA’s plan, drivers with a heavy rigid licence will be able to move ahead in six months so long as they complete a TAFE or registered training organisation (RTO) course.

The ATA wants the course to cover driving semi-trailers, inspecting vehicles and trailers and planning and navigating routes. Another requirement is to record on-the-job training for a specified period.

"Under the ATA’s proposal, drivers would be able to advance more quickly through the graduated licensing system if they undertake enhanced competency based training and assessment and then record a history of safe driving on the job," outgoing ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says.

He says the industry is fighting to retain labour due to competition from the mining sector, while many are discouraged by the waiting times.

"Mid-career workers with family obligations and mortgages simply can’t afford to sit out the waiting period and look to other industries for work…They are expected to sit and wait, with the result that many potentially excellent drivers go off and do something else instead," Martyn says.

He has rejected any assertions the proposed changes will have a negative impact on safety because drivers are not required to do anything to improve their skills while waiting to advance to a new vehicle class under the current system.

"The waiting periods do not contribute to safety…Our plan would give drivers a strong incentive to get high quality training that would make them better, safer drivers," Martyn says.

The ATA wants the proposal considered by Australia’s transport ministers as they work on implementing national heavy vehicle regulations.

However the ATA says the existing licensing system should continue alongside its proposal.

Queensland has taken the lead in developing the new driver licensing scheme, which is due to be introduced this year.

It last year released a proposal for a competency-based scheme.

If accepted, a national skills set will be developed for each vehicle class by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC) and integrated into the vocational education and training (VET) system.

"The assessment standard will be consistent across all approved assessment modes and across all jurisdictions," the proposal paper reads.

"It is intended that all heavy vehicle drivers will be subject to the same knowledge and skills requirements regardless of where in Australia they obtain their heavy vehicle driver licence."

What do you think? Is the proposal good news for the industry and will it help attract new drivers and retain current ones? Leave your thoughts below or email ATN.

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