Push for change to system that sees truckies ‘sitting on the couch for a year’

Austroads has said it is pushing for changes to the current licensing system, which can often see drivers “sitting on the couch for a year” while waiting to upgrade their truck licence.  

Paul Davies, general manager of programs with Austroads, said during last week’s ATA conference in Canberra that holding a licence for a certain length of time isn’t an indicator that you are a more competent driver.  

“The current tenure model, whereby you wait 12 months before you’re eligible to get to the next licence, doesn’t contribute to building experience,” he said. 

“As someone put it to me very neatly, sitting on the couch for a year doesn’t make you’re ready for the next vehicle.”

Austroads wants to bring in experience-based licence progression options, while allowing those who meet the tenure-based rules to upgrade their licence even if they haven’t gained experience during that time.  

“There are circumstances where a person won’t be able to get a lot of experience,” Davies said.  

“So we’re proposing to retain that 12-month rule, but in addition to that, to bring in experience-based pathways that recognise that time behind the wheel matters. 

“So if you spend time driving in a particular class of heavy vehicle, so don’t need to wait 12 months before you go ahead to the next class of heavy vehicle.”  

These proposed changes are part of a review of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework.  

The framework was originally approved by transport ministers 10 years ago, and a review was initiated in 2016.  

A revised package finally went to ministers in December 2023, and they have finally approved the changes proposed – but it is a slow process.  

Steve Shearer, the executive director of the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), said politicians don’t understand the reality of the broken licensing system, and it’s important to speak out about how it’s affecting the industry. 

Also speaking at the ATA’s conference last week, he said: “They think you have to hold a HR licence for a year before you can get a HC, or you hold a HR for two years before you can go for a MC, and that will fix everything.

“We know that that’s actually part of the current problem.  

“Holding a licence without having to get any experience doesn’t achieve a damn thing.” 

He said that government officials are “afraid” to tackle the real issues in the trucking industry.

“We are bleeding drivers from the industry, they are sick of the risks that they’re exposed to increasingly.

“We have to push and cajole the government into really working with us on a successful fix for getting people from overseas – I don’t care what country they’re from – and making sure that they and every sixth generation Australian  truck driver has the right safety, culture, and attitude to drive professionally in our country.

“If we don’t push that hard, we will end up with a package from government that looks nice, smells nice, it’s packaged nice, but does Jack as far as solving the problem.”



  1. As I have stated before why are you all not pushing the gov to relax the earnings of retired aged drivers who want to work say 3-4days a week but can’t because of the ridiculous tax/ pension system. If you earn over approx $11000 a year(single) you loose your pension and also your pension is added after that earnings to your total earnings and then taxed on that so who will get out of bed for that. I have been in the industry for over46 years and over 20 years as a heavy vehicle trainer/Assessor. I am now retired but would love to do a few days a week but cannot because of the stupid system. Allowing older drivers to come back will not fix the problem but certainly will ease the shortage. But keep in mind that older drivers will get the job done but might take a little longer so DO NOT BURN THEM OUT SA the industry is doing today which is why so many drivers are leaving.

  2. Nothing makes sense in regards to licensing , when in Qld in the mid 1990’s I had a road train license with experience to back it up and that was not accepted to drive 23 metre B-Doubles so I had to do a driving test for that licence before I could commence work ; BUT , Sunbus 20 seat bus drivers who had never driven a truck carting freight were able to jump straight from bus to truck without any road knowledge .

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