Licensing loophole for foreign drivers must close: TWU

Union says urgent action is needed to prevent untrained overseas drivers getting behind the wheel of trucks.

Licensing loophole for foreign drivers must close: TWU
Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon.


A licensing loophole that allows overseas drivers almost unlimited access to Australian roads must be closed to prevent untrained foreigners driving trucks, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) says.

Along with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), the TWU has fronted a Senate inquiry into road safety to urge changes to licensing conditions governing overseas drivers.

Most states allow foreign drivers to use their overseas licences to drive on their roads, a situation the TWU believes is a recipe for disaster.

It claims this loophole is allowing companies to bring in foreign truck drivers and send them out on the road without proper training.

"It is a matter of urgency that these anomalies in our visa, training and licensing systems are closed. They allow employers to exploit overseas workers and put the rest of the travelling public at risk due to economic pressure from clients," TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon has told the inquiry.

"The immigration minister Peter Dutton must explain how he can insist only 10 truck drivers in the whole of Australia have been given 457 visas and yet clearly many more overseas workers are driving trucks. He needs to come clean on what is happening and take action."

Truck driving is not permitted under a 457 visa, but the TWU claims companies are exploiting the scheme and hiring workers on the temporary visas to drive trucks.

The ATA has also proposed changes to state-based licensing systems so that overseas drivers must obtain an Australia licence within a year of arriving

Furthermore, the ATA says an overseas licence holder should be banned from driving trucks if they do not hold an Australian heavy vehicle licence.

The TWU believes its proposal for the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) to approve a national auditing, education and industrial rights fund will improve the situation. The union wants employers in the transport supply chain to bankroll the initiative.

"The fund would ensure companies are meeting safety obligations and that those at the top of supply chains are being held to account for economic pressure work carried out for them," the TWU says.

"The fund would also educate employers on their obligations while training drivers on safety and their rights at work."

The union says it is making its application to tighten licensing controls in the wake of an incident on Sydney’s M5 motorway last month when an overseas-born truck driver jack-knifed his rig.

The driver was hauling freight for Scotts of Mt Gambier at the time. The TWU is currently holding talks with the company. It says it is attempting to scrutinise Scotts’ supply chain operations to determine why that driver was employed.


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