How Truck Drivers are Trained and Licenced
Truck driver licensing is the responsibility of the state and territory governments, although Australia’s transport ministers have agreed that the national heavy vehicle regulations should include consistent minimum standards for driver competency assessment and licensing.
The truck driver licensing system is based on a time served model (under the Graduated Licensing System). For example, a driver must hold a car license for two years before applying for the heavy rigid license, and in turn hold the rigid vehicle license for a further 12 months before applying for a heavy combination (semitrailer) license. The driver does not need to drive a heavy rigid truck during the 12 month waiting period.
People entering the industry can also undertake certificate or diploma qualifications at TAFE colleges or other registered training organisations. These nationally recognised, competency based qualifications provide drivers (and others) with best-practice training, as well as additional competencies relevant to their work in the industry, such as following occupational health and safety procedures, applying fatigue management strategies, and shifting materials safely.
These nationally recognised, competency based qualifications provide best-practice training, as well as additional competencies relevant to work in the industry, such as following occupational health and safety procedures, fatigue management, and shifting materials safely.
The existing heavy vehicle driver licensing system discourages people from entering the industry. Most job vacancies are for semi-trailer or multi-combination drivers, but new entrants face a long and frustrating waiting period before they can be licensed to drive those vehicles.
These waiting periods do not contribute to safety. At present, there is no requirement for drivers to practice their skills before they book a test or starting training to drive the next class of vehicles. They just have to wait their time.
The ATA’s proposal to create an enhanced licensing standard would address these issues. Under this plan, drivers would be able to advance more quickly through the Graduated Licensing System if they undertake enhanced competency based training and assessment, and then demonstrate a history of safe driving on the job in the relevant heavy vehicle license class.
We stress that the ATA is advocating to licensing authorities that they maintain a Base Licensing Standard (which would not attract any acceleration through the Graduated Licensing System). However, the addition of the Enhanced Licensing Standard would allow the industry to attract, train and retain heavy vehicle drivers with enhanced skills, and encourage the greater uptake of vocational qualifications aligned to driving operations, thereby contributing to road safety and the professional standing of the industry.
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The ATA does not support bringing truck drivers in from overseas, as it is by no means a solution for existing or future truck driver skills shortages.
The trucking industry’s focus is on achieving the best outcome from the link between future heavy vehicle driver licensing regulations and competency-based training and assessment, encouraging more people to join the industry, raising skills, and developing and retaining existing workers in the industry for longer.