I recently represented the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) at the government’s Surface Transport Roundtable ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra, which will be held from September 1-2.
The roundtable was built around three themes:
• Addressing skills shortages
• Regulatory roadblocks and opportunities
• Transition to net zero
The ATA ensured that the voices of the trucking industry were heard loud and clear, explaining that the trucking industry faces a critical shortage of skilled workers.
The ATA put forward recommendations to address the situation, including:
• Redesignating truck driving as skill level 3 under the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) rather than skill level 4.
• Adding truck driving to the Australian Apprenticeship Priority List and the Trade Support Loans Priority List.
• Adding truck driving to the skilled migration visa system, with the requirement that truck drivers migrating to Australia undertake driver training here and hold an Australian driving licence of the required class.
The ATA addressed the issue of regulatory roadblocks and opportunities, arguing that the existing heavy vehicle driver licensing system is not fit for purpose.
Drivers graduate without the skills employers needed, and the system imposes a mandatory waiting period between each driver licence class.
It’s not surprising that many potential occupational drivers choose to work elsewhere.
The ATA also highlighted the flaws in the Heavy Vehicle National Law, including cumbersome work diaries, unreasonable penalties for paperwork errors and minor fatigue breaches.
It was argued that the complexity of the fatigue rules and the seemingly random penalties discourage people from working as drivers.
The ATA recommended that the Australian government should:
• Support the Austroads review of the heavy vehicle driver competency framework. The ATA expects the framework would create two new pathways for heavy vehicle driver licensing—
o a supervision program pathway, where a driver with qualified supervision would be able to advance through the classes in about a year
o a driving experience pathway, where a driver would be able to advance based on their hours of driving.
• Press the states to complete the HVNL review and amend the law accordingly.
The Austroads Consultation Regulation Impact Statement is open for feedback until October 28 and is open to all feedback. I urge you to participate.
The ATA also appreciated the opportunity to discuss the challenge of transitioning to net zero emission vehicles, stating that Australia needs a clear national strategy on the issue.
I’m hoping the Surface Transport Roundtable and the subsequent Jobs and Skills Summit generate some concrete solutions to the issues that have plagued our industry for far too long.
- David Smith is Chair of the Australian Trucking Association