Pilot association takes issue with NTC proposal

By: Brad Gardner

National Pilot Vehicle Drivers Association takes issue with proposal to create two-tier framework to govern pilot and escort vehicle drivers.

The body representing pilot and escort vehicle drivers throughout Australia has rejected a National Transport Commission (NTC) proposal to allow unaccredited drivers to escort loads over 3.5 metres.

The National Pilot Vehicle Drivers Association has criticised the recommendation, which flags the creation of a two-tier framework made up of registered and accredited drivers.

The NTC wants to allow registered drivers to accompany loads between 3.5 metres and 4.5 metres, while permitting accredited drivers to accompany loads between 3.5 metres and 5.5 metres.

Drivers seeking registration will only need to have an open licence, complete a multiple choice test and submit to background checks, but accredited drivers will have to demonstrate a minimum level of experience and undergo recognised training that covers vehicle inspection, piloting and escorting and traffic control.

The National Pilot Vehicle Drivers Association says all pilots escorting loads over 3.5 metres should be accredited.

"To allow a person with minimal driving experience and no piloting experience to pilot an oversize load is not acceptable," the association says in a written submission to the NTC.

"There have been cases where a truck driver with no experience of oversize movements has been piloted by a pilot with no prior experience."

Furthermore, the association says drivers should be required to hold a licence continuously for five years and be at least 25 years of age before being eligible to become a pilot or escort.

"A record of holding an open manual licence continually for five years thus indicating reasonable road experience," its submission states.

The group says all drivers should undertake a nationally recognised training course to ply their trade throughout the country and that background checks should be limited to convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and dangerous driving.

"A clear and precise knowledge of English should also be a requirement necessary for radio communication," it says.

The association agrees with the NTC’s suggestion for accreditation to be valid for three to five years, but adds that drivers should complete a refresher course when renewing their accreditation to keep abreast of any changes in the industry.

The NTC's proposals are contained in a discussion paper, released last month, which outlines a national scheme to govern pilot and escort vehicle drivers.

Existing jurisdiction-based models vary across borders, causing headaches for drivers and operators travelling interstate.

"Delays at borders waiting for extra pilots/escorts/permits have in some cases been days, a huge cost for business and very inefficient," the National Pilot Vehicle Drivers Association says.

The NTC has proposed giving the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) responsibility for pilot and escort arrangements.

Industry has until February 21 to respond to the NTC’s discussion paper.

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