‘Truck drivers need to be sure that those coming at them are well trained’

Declining professional standards and a broken driver licencing and training system are contributing to the dangers truck drivers face out on the road on a daily basis, says Western Roads Federation (WRF) CEO Cam Dumesny.

He says WRF is routinely fielding calls from truck drivers on the east to west route who don’t want to do it anymore because it’s just too dangerous.

“The real concern from drivers is that it’s just becoming far too high risk,” Dumesny said.

“There’s a definite decline in professionalism in the industry, there’s a decline in on-road courtesy to each other, and we’ve got to address the driver licencing and training system. It’s just not acceptable.” 

“There are real concerns about the licensing standards occurring in some of the jurisdictions. At the end of the day, you can have the best trained driver in the world, but it’s the drivers coming at them that need to be trained to that same high standard. Truck drivers need to be sure that other drivers coming at them are competent, well-trained drivers.

“We also need to address international drivers, regardless of where in the world they come from, and that needs to be a national priority – not tomorrow but today.”

Western Roads Federation (WRF) CEO Cam Dumesny.
Conference images: Roxanne Tulk/44 Creative

Following the Eyre Highway crash on April 4, in which three truck drivers tragically lost their lives, WRF chaired a meeting where it detailed a heavy vehicle safety plan, with a number of steps aimed at improving safety for truck drivers and other road users.

“When the road accident on the Eyre Highway occurred during the rail outage, we had a number of drivers from the east coast on that route who had never driven it. There were drivers out there who were ill-equipped, badly prepared and inexperienced. You shouldn’t be able to suddenly go from shuttle runs from Melbourne to Ballarat, to driving a road train to Perth or Darwin.

“We have a problem in this industry. Fundamentally, everyone knows we have a problem – the regulatory authorities, emergency services, local governments. That impacts us because it means we might start getting restricted access on routes. We’re going to pay a price in lost access, a price in increased insurance premiums, and above all a moral price if we don’t pay respect to those drivers killed on our roads by getting serious and fixing these issues.”

So where do we start?

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” Dumesny said. “I think as an industry we need to step up and create a plan about how we can work with other road user groups, cyclists, caravanners and car drivers to improve road safety. Let’s be the bigger people in the room and lead the charge.”

Included in WRF’s heavy vehicle safety plan are a national four-week road safety blitz and a taskforce that would investigate licensing in the event of a fatal crash.

The national road safety blitz being proposed would be undertaken in conjunction with each of the state’s road authorities, looking at speed, fatigue, drug use and driver behaviour.

Though Dumesny admits such a move wouldn’t be popular among everybody, he conceded that it’s something that really needs to be done.

“We can’t keep turning a blind eye. The last time something like this was done was probably about 10 years ago. What we’re saying is that we need to reinstate that. We need to get all relevant authorities and regulators out there.

“They also need to be checking licencing and a truck’s suitability for the job at hand. We’ve had trucks running out to Darwin with no air conditioning – that’s an OH&S issue. There are also all these reports of people driving three-up, so we need to be checking that the legal number of people are in the truck.”

And in the event of a fatal crash, WRF wants to see a thorough investigation taking place that determines when and where the heavy vehicle driver obtained their licence to identify any common trends.

“We need to have confidence with heavy vehicle driver training and licencing and be confident that RTOs (registered training organisations) are complying to standards,” Dumesny added.

“It all comes back to basics. No matter how good a driver you are, you need to have confidence that the person coming at you is equally as good and well trained. And this goes for all road users.

“Nationally the road toll is up significantly. There seems to be an underlying anger, frustration and sense of entitlement amongst all road users – whether it be caravanners, cyclists or car drivers – but we’ve got to have some respect for each other, and that seems to have dissipated.

“That’s amongst our own drivers too, where a small minority think they’re the only ones who have a right to be on the road.

“That’s why we need to work with other industries and be the bigger person on the road. It’s time that we as an industry step up and lead that conversation nationally. Other road user groups have issues, but we need to accept that we have issues too.

“Truck drivers are being killed – and we as an industry don’t pay respect to them and their families if we don’t fix this problem.”


  1. Cam Dumsney is closer to our transport problem than any other article I have read. He forgot to mention the root of the driver shortage. Since the governments forming of NHVR saw many drivers hanging up their gloves due to victimisation and bogus fines. The governments fix, flood the industry with international drivers with no experience, most likely no licence, non English speaking and no regards for life or safety for others. This bandaid fix has created another problem, more Aussie drivers are giving the industry away due to safety concerns. I myself after over 50 years mostly east/west will not put foot in an interstate truck again. My trucks now cart mud around our capital city. I have experienced first hand international drivers antics. They own the road and an oncoming truck has the rest. The industry is spiraling down at an alarming pace. I expect Big Rigs to delete my post due to telling the truth which contributes the the problem

  2. That’s why I’m not driving trucks anymore; lots of truck drivers out there without experience, knowledge and common sense. It is too dangerous out there this days. Years ago one would trust each other to be safe, now it’s the opposite. Careless, reckless and aggressive behaviour makes the road a dangerous place this days. We’ve learned how to handle cyclists, cars and caravans and it’s not getting easier, but the new wave of truckers are the real danger. Fast tracking licensing and shortcuts to get more drivers is the most dangerous approach. The driver shortage could have been solved by paying the drivers for their responsibility a decent wage, so new drivers would be encouraged to move up the licence ladder and get experience by doing it. Now all that talk with short cuts and WA recruiting new drivers and spend millions to get them. Wouldn’t be safer to use that money in truck drivers wages for their danger money and have a very strict licensing system in place to keep everyone safe on the roads. Too many inexperienced drivers out there now – too dangerous. Truck drivers underpaid and leaving the industry for better and safer working conditions. For me, the coins where not enough for the hours and responsibilities as an experienced truck driver. I worked my way up from general freight to oversize work, then heavy haulage. I really enjoyed doing it, was not impressed how much I was paid for the sacrifices with long hours and huge responsibilities and after some near misses with other drivers, staying alive is my priority. I hope the licensing is getting stricter for the sake of everyone’s safety. Transport companies should be focused of getting high paid, experienced truckers, no getting government involved to pay for short cut manufacturing drivers, then employ them cheaply. The companies are responsible for the dangerous environment on the road. Working with a balance sheet and share holders caused the drivers shortage and the government try to fix the problem in favour of greedy companies. The government pays for the short cuts and the companies have cheap drivers. A win for the companies, a loss for the drivers, safe road environments and the experienced drivers love what they doing, plus taxpayers money is wasted for something companies should be responsible.

  3. The last government pandered to a lobby group and drove down drivers’ pay rates.
    Then when road deaths involving heavy vehicles jumped up, they responded by increasing fines and victimisation.
    The solution has always been to pay drivers by the hour, not by the load.

    1. Had a roadtrain just out of town the other day pass me in a caravan..3 km further i went left he was still sitting waiting at the intersection to turn right as i went by…go figure

  4. One day I had a Uber driver say to me ” I’ve only got three weeks until I can get my MC licence” so I asked him what trucking company he worked for he said he hadn’t, but his mates had a job lined up for him. This just blew my f/mind. The government has no idea what they have done to our industry, and it’s to late to fix it the damage has already been done 😡

  5. The knee jerk reaction following a highway tragedy is not the reaction the drivers deserve.
    The response should be a national media campaign to educate motorists, caravanners and other trucks to SHARE the highway safely.
    All drivers must speak and understand English before they are eligible to apply for training for their truck licence.
    Education is better then punishment, although there isn’t as much revenue in it.

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