Training reform more vital than ever

Vehicle standards guide

As it has been close on 12 months since my last article, I do hope that time has been kind to you, your family and your mates on the highway. As family is important to me and you, I know arriving home safe is the best gift that you can give to family.

It is with sadness that we have lost a few great men and women of our industry. With them gone, I know it continues to hurt each day, but it does not make it any easier. Please pick up the phone and call a mate. Check on him/her to ensure everyone is safe. We need to ensure we don’t lose any more brothers and sisters on the road.

With many great things that have happened across the road transport industry, it is sometimes hard to take a moment and reflect on what has been happening.

With the Closing Loopholes Act 2023 and the Closing Loopholes No.2 Act 2024 now in legislation, it is with hope that the legislation will close all labour hire loopholes, the employees right to disconnect and the constant issue around wage theft. With the adding of provisions around how support can be offered to victims of domestic violence, this will ensure our most vulnerable of our industry is supported.

When focusing on the state of Queensland, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has now assumed full responsibility for the delivery of heavy vehicle on-road compliance and enforcement services in that state. With the idea of delivering positive results to all industry stakeholders, this should deliver some great outcomes to all heavy vehicle drivers.

With the NHVR in all states and territories except Western Australia and the Northern Territory, it’s been able to submit access permits through a dedicated portal and being able to complete any other reporting requirements. This will save so much time for owner operators.

Driver competency

Earlier this year, I attended a forum held online that discussed the progress and next steps for the implementation of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework.

Been that this has been developed and presented by Austroads, it did provide me the opportunity to engage many road managers, transport department managers and other road transport leaders. As this is still an ongoing project, the key outcomes are positive.

With the project presenting two options, the main take away was that all leaders are now focused on driver safety and not money. With the emphasis on how a driver can obtain their heavy vehicle licence, the project if successful, will ensure that the expanded set of knowledge and skills, attitudinal training, hazard-perception training and assessment will be a major part of this reform.

Cartoon by John Allison

With a major focus on minimum training and behind-the-wheel supervision, this could be the answer we have been searching for.

Under the above options, for a driver to get a HR licence, he or she will need to complete 10 hours of online learning, 4.5 hours of class-based learning and 10 hours of behind-the-wheel time mentoring.

When a driver chooses to move up to the HC licence, the driver is required to complete 10 hours of on-line learning, four hours of class-based learning and 11 hours of behind-the-wheel mentoring. When a driver chooses to move up to the MC licence, the driver is required to complete 10 hours of on-line learning, four hours of class-based learning and 11.5 hours of behind the wheel mentoring.

Correct mentoring

Been that I have been driving trucks for over 28 years, when I started my transport career in the early 1990s I was trained and mentored correctly by many great transport operators.

With motivation in the form of a swift kick up the backside when needed, I always had someone beside to support me when things did go wrong. As these moments were turned into teachable moments, it is the reason why I am the truck driver I am today.

The issue I have is, when an operator is needing to place a driver into an asset that could be worth between $500,000 to $1 million, that operator should have the full confidence that the driver will be safe and professional. That operator should have the confidence that the driver has been trained to the best standard, but this is not always the case.

With multiple heavy vehicle accidents resulting in being fatalities this year, my thoughts do lead me to asking how we can get this training reform put into place now? Our young men and women of our industry need the support and training to be the superstars of tomorrow.

During the recent Road Safety Week held from May 5 to 12, we all heard and saw the media advertisements promoting the need for everyone to not touch their mobiles, adhere to all speed limits, and drive to the road conditions. At no time did we hear about car drivers needing to stay clear when in our blind spots.

We have the ‘Don’t Muck With A Truck’ campaign supported by the NHVR, but I cannot see much evidence this is working. With several collisions in the past month in Brisbane resulting in a heavy vehicle making contact with a car in blind spots, a rethink may be needed to solve this issue.

With a lot going on across the industry as stated above, one can only hope that the above changes that have been put into place, will do what it is intended to do.

As the current freight task continues to increase, so does the support of our younger drivers to be trained better and supported better. I do hope that everyone has an awesome next 12 months and hope to see you all on the road.

Marcus Cosgrove, as well as a being an advocate for mental health, is a passionate road safety advocate working with the National Road Freighters Association as a board member and social media officer.

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