Opinion

Review must reflect needs of industry

As many of you have probably read in various media, the review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law has taken a large commitment of time by our team and those of you who have made comments or contributions to industry meetings and submissions.

The review held such significant promise for this country and the future development of the road freight industry, but unfortunately recent indications are that this review is simply an enduring disappointment.

As an example, the Fatigue Management proposal sets out rules as muddled as ever. In this review we expected recommendations that display clarity of thought with a rationale that demonstrates a concerted joint approach from industry and authorities.

The rationale should clearly show:

  • A justifiable level of regulatory intervention
  • Sanctions that are proportional to the type and level of non-compliance
  • Appropriate application of advanced technology and improved information and data flow; and
  • Progressing the “chain of responsibility” principle as a cornerstone for compliance and enforcement strategies.

After 83 years of laws relating to hours and rest for truck driving in this country, we have an entirely unacceptable proposal put before us with no evidence that any of the feedback/ideas or proposals from industry have been adopted at any level.

In a business environment where inflationary pressures are clearly building and market pricing suggesting interest rate increases are looming perhaps at least twice before the end of 2022, the outcome of this review must be reflective of the views and needs of the industry.

Another hot topic is the driving apprenticeship proposal and how this will help solve the driver shortage and increase new entrants into the industry.

This proposal does have merit, however we must be mindful of the commencement timeframes optimistically suggested by Australian Industry Standards. We know from the regular engagement we have with you that you need drivers now.  Although the concept of a driving apprenticeship may fill a longer term need to place drivers into the industry, there are many aspects of this type of program to be considered before it gets off the ground. QTA will continue to support this longer term initiative.

It is our view that we need to immediately progress a ‘job ready’ proposal that will get drivers into seats as soon as possible and one that will provide a type of wage subsidy support to employers to be able to safely provide on-the-road practical driving hours to prepare newly licenced drivers to take the wheel.

We see three major issues with any current driver training program:

  • Training must be relevant, and the focus should be on the necessary skill sets that the driver must possess to complement the driving licence.
  • A minimum requirement for on-road driving hours must be included. For an employer to have the confidence in a newly licenced driver, there must be a capacity for the driver to gain the required experience to satisfy a prospective employer.
  • The cost the employer has to wear to ‘onboard’ a driver and provide them with that on-road driving time must be subsided as it is a cost not recoverable in a freight rate as the driver is performing the role of an ‘offsider’ not required for the freight task yet must be supervised whilst gaining experience.

We will continue to progress our QTA Jobs Ready Policy proposal to ensure that we gain a practical solution that will provide industry with a viable more immediate option to source and employ newly licenced drivers.

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