Austroads drags out driver licensing overhaul for another two years


Despite a surge of disquiet among operators and peak bodies over the inadequate driver licensing standards in Australia, Austroads appears not to share the same sense of urgency for change.

After dragging its feet for two years on the first review of the licensing framework, we now hear this week that we have a further two years to wait before a “highly qualified consortium” delivers the final stage of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework review and revision.

And who exactly is in this “consortium”, we hear you ask. One stacked with veteran truck drivers with exemplarily safety records, or well-respected operators with a track record of bringing youngsters through the ranks and who knows what it takes to become a professional driver, surely?

Not even close.

Appointed by Austroads, it’s led by Dr Kim Hassall, National Chair of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Australia and Professor Sharon Newnham, Associate Director of the Systems Safety Team at Monash University Accident Research Centre.

“The consortium brings extensive expertise, a considerable national and international network, access to critical information resources and a long history of participation in related projects,” said the media release.

They’re tasked with strengthening national heavy vehicle licence training and assessment standards to ensure drivers are equipped with the knowledge, skills, competence and experience to safely drive in a range of conditions.

The project objective is to deliver a harmonised Australian licence training and assessment framework, that produces safe and competent heavy vehicle drivers, as well as reflecting the current and future needs of heavy vehicles operators and the future freight task.

All great goals and desperately needed, but we’re putting all this in the hands of academics for the next two years?

Why not just call the various state associations today and get their notes. Tired of waiting around, watching more tragedies on the road and their workforce deplete by the day, they’re taking action right now, with some impressive results [more on that in our November 13 issue].

When we asked Austroads why this process was taking this long, we got this response:

“The development of a robust and evidence based national training framework is a complex undertaking. The project will deliver high quality training materials for all classes of heavy vehicles. The curriculum will require time for development and testing to ensure the materials fulfil the project’s objective to improve safety for drivers and members of the public.

“In view of the critical role of transport and logistics in national and regional economies the ability of drivers and operators to work safely and seamlessly across jurisdictional borders is a primary consideration.

“The national freight task and heavy vehicle characteristics are constantly changing. Any training and assessment system must provide a future proof framework which can be constantly updated without the need for major revision.  Time is required to make sure we do it once and do it right.

“Industry perspectives on this issue vary widely across different sectors, locations and business sizes. To date, there has been broad consultation with industry which will continue as work on this third stage of the project progresses.”

And what becomes of all this research two years from now, we asked.

“The Australian federation allows each jurisdiction to make its own laws and regulations. This project has been structured to provide training and assessment standards and a framework curriculum to allow each jurisdiction to establish its own driver training and assessment procedures while delivering nationally consistent driver competencies and road safety outcomes.”

In other words, if we sit around waiting for Austroads instead of getting on with it and fixing it ourselves, we’ll probably be back where we started.

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