‘Let’s not blame the drivers coming through a broken system’

“You hear all these issues about the drivers on our roads but at the end of the day they’re giving licences away willy-nilly,” said truck driver turned driver trainer and assessor John Skinner.

Following in the footsteps of his father – who was a truck driver his whole working life – 50-year-old Skinner spent over 30 years doing everything from local to interstate road trains, before health issues forced him to give it up.

“I became a show kid at about 16, so I left home and got into trucks. I started out driving trucks on a car licence, then got my truck licence at 21 and MC at 28. Due to my health issues, I had to give up driving interstate so I got my licences and certificates and became a driver trainer and assessor four years ago,” explained Skinner.

He says that his move into driver training was a real eye-opener – and not in a good way.

“I just thought, this isn’t right. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good trainers out there. Then there’s those who got their truck licence recently or years ago then become trainers or assessors, with no industry experience, but it says you must have five years industry experience to be a trainer or an assessor,” said Skinner.

“You’ve got all these people blaming the drivers but at the end of the day, they’re coming through our system.”

Skinner spent around three years working for another truck driving school, before going out on his own and opening Gold Coast Truck Driving School in January 2023.

Since moving into training and assessing, he says, “I’ve heard of other assessors signing everyone off for their licence and never failing anyone.”

One of the biggest issues with driver training, adds Skinner, is that many trainers are “only teaching truck drivers how to drive in a straight line”.

“You’ve got these truck drivers who get their licence and then we say look at these idiots, they can’t even back the trailers. But they were never taught!

“When I was doing MC training and passing students, I had most of them learning how to back around corners. Some struggled with that but met the standard of reversing in a straight line, so at the end of the day, I’d have to pass them because they passed all the protocols.

“I’ve been pulled up in the past and asked why I wasn’t just doing everything as per the standards – but that I was doing a good job because I was teaching them how to reverse. So they said just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Since opening his own training school, Skinner claims he’s had multiple phone calls from people asking: “Is this the school where everyone passes?”

His response: “I say no mate, I don’t do that! But I know there are training providers where that’s happening.”

Skinner believes in some cases it’s more about the paperwork than actual skills. “I know of one particular trainer who’s just a good businessman. He has no industry experience, he’s now training trainers who have no industry experience and the person doing the testing has no industry experience.

“You need to have experience to be a trainer or an assessor, but I know a good percentage don’t have that experience. It’s not enforced, it’s not checked. It’s an absolute joke that this is even happening.

“Even some of the Queensland transport government workers have no industry experience at all and they’re doing the testing and deciding who passes.”

According to Skinner, “There are too many people sitting at desks – and they’re good at the paperwork – but they don’t really know or understand the industry.”

He says safety standards just aren’t where they should be.

John (right) with his son Flynn who has his open HC licence. Image: John Skinner

“When I was young, I could go out with my old man, and that was some of the best training you could ever get. Now we’ve got this shortage of drivers because we’re not getting the next generation coming through like we used to. But we’ve still got all this freight that has to be moved. And that to me, is the biggest glaring issue.

“You could have your car licence, then get your HR licence with me tomorrow and then 12 months later go for your MC. So you could effectively go from car licence to MC in one year and one day, and then go and transport a loaded B-double from Melbourne to Sydney.”


  1. That’s total crap John, there’s as much carnage driving in a straight line as there is anywhere else. Travelling across the Nullarbor (not just the Nullarbor I expect) when an oncoming truck is on your side of the road and they don’t budge forcing you off the road THAT CANT BE TRAINED INTO THEM. I have been running across there for 50 years and these new international drivers have turned a quite safe industry into something else.

    1. Yes totally agree. I have been involved in the Heavy Vehicle industry for over 46 years as a Driver and last 20 years as a trainer/Assessor. Everything John stated is so correct especially about the cowboy trainers and Assessor. Look at where most of these cowboys come from who pass these overseas so call truck drivers. You are right about them comming at you on wrong side of road as you will find that there is an avg 3-4 unlicensed people help driving that truck.
      I did have my own Heavy Driving School and the amount of phone calls I received from people who could hardly speak English offering me Hugh money to pass them which I refused. I use to report this to the authorities and all I got back from them was yes we know but be carefully of discrimination. What a lot of shit.
      Until we get rid of idiots making the rules and shonky trainer/Assessor the industry will go further backwards. There is plenty of retired drivers on pensions who would love to come back to say 2-3 days a week but will loose their pension or pay more tax than the earn. Stop bringing,not all, only certain ones from certain countries into the industry and push the idiot Labour gov into relaxing the pension laws for retired Heavy Vehicle Drivers on their earnings and Tax so they can help the shortage and also their own lives with a couple of extra dollars.
      It is not a great ask from the big/medium trucking companies to push for.

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