Government clears road for truck driving apprenticeships

NatRoad hails announcement but TWU says prime minister fails to address unsafe supply chain pressures

Government clears road for truck driving apprenticeships
Scott Morrison chats with apprentice John West


The Morrison Government has green lighted the road for a new truck driving apprenticeship which it says will help secure Australia’s economic recovery, following calls from the transport and logistic sector for a nationally agreed qualification to meet future workforce challenges.

The new national apprenticeship, Certificate III in Driving Operations, will see the industry in conjunction with states and territories develop a truck driving apprenticeship for the first time following endorsement of a new framework by federal, state and territory skills ministers.

In a statement issued by the government, each state and territory will now consider adding the apprenticeship to their training programs, with existing Commonwealth funding for apprenticeships and training flowing as soon as they do.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said any a new national trucking apprenticeship was a critical step to address a potential shortfall in the trucking workforce while meeting supply chain needs.

"Securing Australia’s economic recovery relies on the thousands of men and women driving trucks right around our country every single day," Morrison states.

"Our trucking sector drives our economy and there couldn’t be a more important job than getting food on the table to millions of families or delivering COVID-19 vaccines to doctors, hospitals and pharmacies right around Australia."

Morrison used the announcement to take aim at the Labor Party, accusing the opposition of cutting $1.2 billion to employer incentives and losing 110,000 places when last in power. He compared it to current record number of trade apprentices in place with over 220,000 Australians training for new job opportunities.

Stuart Robert, the minister for employment, workforce, skills, small and family business, said the new trucking apprenticeship was an example of the Morrison Government’s commitment to driving new opportunities for Australians to take control of their careers and get ahead through skilling.

"The new trucking apprenticeships come at a time when the Government is delivering record amounts of support to apprentices and trainees, which has seen hundreds of thousands of Australians upskilling or reskilling thanks to JobTrainer, TAFE funding and apprenticeship funding," Robert said.

RELATED ARTICLE: ATA releases submission on apprenticeships for 2023

Assistant minister for road safety and freight transport, Scott Buchholz, said the new apprentice pathway would help lift the professionalism of the transport industry and attract new workers.

"The transport industry is the lifeblood that keeps Australia moving and supplied, Australia stops without our hard-working truck drivers, it is as simple as that," Buchholz said.

"Truck driving is about more than just changing gears and unloading, by providing a national driver training framework, our future truck drivers will have an advanced competency across the profession, such as load constraints, transporting dangerous goods and pre-departure inspection.

"This is a new approach to ensuring our transport industry has the workforce of the future and provides young Australians with the opportunity to have a career, not just a job – in a rewarding industry."

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) says the new truck driving apprenticeship was a giant step forward for the heavy vehicle industry. It says states and territories are expected to move towards adopting the Certificate III in Driving Operation as part of their training programs so they can access Commonwealth funding.

"It’s something NatRoad has been working hard to bring to the attention of government, in partnership with truck manufacturer Paccar and the Paccar Dealer Network since 2018 via our Future Ready strategy and we’re delighted to have been heard," NatRoad chair Scott Davidson said.

"This builds the undeniable links between driver education, safety and professionalism and should be applauded by everyone.

"A shortage of skilled drivers is an ongoing problem for our sector and this will help alleviate that.

"Perhaps more critically, this promotes the aspiration of being a professional driver to a whole generation of young Australian men and women."

TWU assistant national secretary Nick Macintosh has accused Scott Morrison of having selective hearing when it comes to trucking

However, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has lashed out against Morrison Government for failing to address supply chain pressures before inviting young people to join what it says is Australia’s deadliest industry.

While the TWU welcomed pathways for young and underrepresented workers to join the industry, it says transport will remain an undesirable career as long as the government refused to enact the regulatory solutions required to make the industry safer.

It cited the August 2021 Senate Report, compiled from an in-depth two-year inquiry which heard of horror crashes, armed hold-ups, and deadly pressures to work fatigued, speed and skip rest breaks. The report outlined 10 recommendations to tackle the systemic practices contributing to high rates of death, injury and poor health outcomes.

TWU assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh said this is the first truckies have heard from Morrison on the supply chain pressures they’ve faced throughout the pandemic, despite numerous letters to his office.

"Morrison is picking and choosing the easiest recommendation of an extensive Senate Report to suit his election campaign while refusing to fix the crisis in trucking," he said.

"An apprenticeship scheme won’t work if it simply asks young people to jump into the graves of truckies killed, only to face the same deadly pressures as their predecessors. 

"There wouldn’t be a driver shortage if there wasn’t such a deficit of decent work, proper consultation, and reform to address the Amazon Effect of cost-cutting and deadly exploitation in trucking supply chains.

"The Morrison Government has selective hearing when it comes to trucking. It is no wonder the Prime Minister has opted for the one recommendation which would not upset or hold to account the wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies squeezing supply chains and making trucking so unsafe.

"If Morrison was as serious about attracting new drivers to the industry as he is about grabbing headlines and photos with trucks, he’d enact every recommendation of the Senate Report, starting with the creation of a robust independent body to make trucking safer and more desirable," McIntosh said.

The Morrison Government says the Transport and Logistics Industry Reference Committee finalised updates to the Certificate III in Driving Operations and the nationally agreed enhancements have been recommended for delivery as an apprenticeship, subject to states and territories agreement.

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