Push to have attitude test part of licensing pathway

SA trucking boss Steve Shearer is calling for measures to tackle what he sees as an increasingly concerning display of “bad driving behaviour and attitudes” from some overseas drivers.

The executive director of the South Australian Road Transport Association believes it’s the number one issue that industry must address and had it top of his agenda for discussion at last week’s Trucking Australia conference in Canberra.

“We’re basically saying if you’ve come from an overseas country, where you were driving what they call a truck – we might all it a lorry – on a road system with minimal road rules, bugger all regulation, and an-every-man-for-himself culture, then of course you’re going to bring that attitude with you,” Shearer said. 

“If you carry on that way on Australia’s highways and byways, you’re not going to fit in and you’re going to cause a whole lot of drama for a lot of people, which is why we’re seeing good drivers increasingly saying, ‘I’m not doing the trip to Perth anymore, it’s too dangerous, I have two near-misses every trip’.”

Shearer was speaking after the triple-fatality at Yalata, SA, in which three drivers were killed in a head-on crash on April 4, but stressed he wasn’t apportioning any blame. South Australia Police are still investigating the cause of that incident.

“My only hope is that the Yalata fatalities are going to create the pressure that we need to get governments involved in tackling this difficult problem with us, because it is difficult. They’ll shit themselves about being accused of being racist.

“You can hear it before you even ask them the bloody question, so they’ll just turn a blind eye and figure everyone will forget about Yalata in a few weeks until the next one.

“Maybe you could handle that if they only happened every five years, but they don’t.”

Shearer has never seen so much anger and frustration amongst drivers on this issue.

“The fact that a lot of it is emotive and ill-informed doesn’t change the fact that the anger and frustration is still there, and we have to deal with it.

“This issue is a very real, day-in, and day-out problem on the road, and if we don’t tackle it, we’re going to be in serious trouble as an industry, and as a country.”

Shearer said part of the solution involves “proper and responsible management and training” by employers, but appreciates it won’t be an easy fix.

“The most common thing you’ll hear from longer-term drivers is that these drivers think the road is their own.

“They’ll come straight down the centre of the Eyre Highway and they won’t move out of the way. You have to go off to the side, and they want to come around before a bend, even though you’ve told them not to.

“They don’t have to be fluent English speakers, but they have got to understand the key dialogue between drivers and key practices about what to do, and what not to do.”

Linehaul truckie Ben Stamatovich of The Drone Way fame, who drives the Nullarbor every week, took to social media after the Yalata incident to share his frustrations.

He said it’s ridiculous that you can drive a multi-combination to Perth on the same day you first get your MC licence.

He suggested that MC newcomers should have to do their first 12 months doing local runs.

“Then when you get your road train licence you get a different coloured licence. Something needs to change. It’s not a hard law to bring into place.

“The future of our industry is our youth and it has to be safe out there. We need our youth wanting to get into the industry and we need the parents of our youth to feel confident the industry has got their back.

“If those three fatalities [at Yalata] happened on any other workplace, the whole joint would be shut down.”

As a regular east-west runner, owner-operator Andrew Salter, who specialises in oversize transport, sees the issues firsthand more than most.

“We’ve all been talking about these international drivers and who’s going to cop it,” said Salter, who organised a convoy to Perth for drivers to pay their respects to Neville ‘Slim’ Musgrove, one of the three truckies killed at Yalata.

“I’m not saying they’re bad people – they’ve got wives, kids, they’re just like us. But every night of the week someone gets run off the road, and it’s getting worse.”

Shearer, however, is confident the issues can be fixed. He said new, and hopefully more effective, driver competency standards are in the works, as are reviews  of driver-training packages in some jurisdictions.

Paul Davies, general manager of programs with Austroads, said there are plans in motion to introduce a new module focusing on “attitude and approach to driving” as part of truck driver training courses nationwide.

The proposal is part of an ongoing review of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework.

Speaking at the ATA’s national conference in Canberra last week, Davies said Austroads had commissioned the Monash University Accident Research Centre to investigate the links between licensing and crash risks.

“We found that training programs which addressed the attitudinal and approach to driving had potential benefits to improve safety,” he said.

Judy Oswin, a consultant who has been working with Austroads on heavy vehicle reform, added the new module is about making sure that drivers understand that the way they approach their driving has a big impact on road safety.

“We will be looking at how we introduce that module – we are not quite sure about the best mechanism to do that,” she said.

“But it will be a key part of what’s being rolled out, and we’ve got good jurisdictional support for that.”

Transport operator Ron Finemore also commented on this issue, as part of a panel on “Fixing Truck Driver Licensing” at the ATA conference.

“You can test for driver attitudes, but you can’t predict how different people are going to react to different environments,” he said.

“One of the things we find is that when you look at drivers who have incidents, they might have never had an issue before, but then suddenly something has happened in their family and it’s affected them.

“And then there’s some people who just don’t care, and you’ve got to make sure they move on.

“The issue is when they move on to someone else on the same day, and they’re on the road alongside my family and your family.”


  1. Steve Shearer is pretty well on the ball. I’m the 3rd generation of a family interstate business who has spent the last 60 years running East West. Now because of what the government has done to the the transport industry enabling any import to jump into a high speed, high horsepower and very heavy truck, I won’t let my 2 lads into an interstate operation. We recently opted to operate local. These new imports regardless of their headwear appear to have no regards for life. This is clear by the way they perform or not perform on the highway. How these clowns obtained a licence is beyond me, I’m sure government officials are behind it. If I lost a family member in one of my trucks by this fiasco I would do my upmost to hold and sue these officials. We need to send these officials across the Nullarbor in a vehicle and see if they like playing chicken with an oncoming truck.

  2. its not just the foreign drivers that have attitude problems there is a attitude problem with locals too.

    yes it doesn’t help when people dont have proper communication skills. you need to be able to read write and speak english properly to get on in society not just the transport industry.

    the attitude of some locals towards the foreign drivers doesnt help either. they couldnt be bothered to help anyone.

    Dad had a overseas driver ask him for help a couple of times, one was he couldn’t wind the landing legs up on the trailer no one had told him to look on both sides for the handle. a second one was no one had properly sat down and explained the paperwork to the poor bloke and made sure he understood what he had to do.

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