The national cabinet has this week endorsed two major changes it said are designed to alleviate the truckie shortage in Australia.
The two decisions agreed by the Infrastructure and Transport National Cabinet Reform Committed are:
- As an immediate priority, all states and territories will enact arrangements to allow New Zealand citizens to use their equivalent New Zealand heavy vehicle licence in Australia for 12 months (or until the licence expires if sooner), before being required to obtain an Australian licence; ii) the states and territories will extend equivalent arrangements to interstate (Australian) drivers to ensure Australian drivers are not disadvantaged. These measures will be a temporary Covid-19 response measure to be reviewed 12 months after implementation.
- Austroads is to provide an interim National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework report by February 2022 to help jurisdictions introduce a competency-based licensing framework for heavy vehicle license class progression, with the final framework due in mid-2022 following consultation on framework development and implementation arrangements.
Commenting on news of the compentency framework report, Queensland Trucking Association CEO Gary Mahon said he has an industry-endorsed job ready program for truckies ready to roll out now that’s designed to help plug the shortfall. All that’s needed is government funding.
“The driver shortages are now and it’s a significant disappointment that this critical need has been sent off for further bureaucratic treatment,” said Mahon.
The Transport Workers’ Union said the decision to rush truck licencing rules changes in the same week Australia clocked 1000 truck crash deaths since the abolition of the industry watchdog showed the federal government has failed on truckie safety.
The union said the changes also provide no protections against exploited foreign labour undercutting an industry already stretched thin.
The TWU said it will today write to the Prime Minister and Austroads to demand consultation on licensing changes involves the union and workers who have been calling for a carefully thought-through, evidence-based progression to competency-based licensing for years.
The TWU has warned against rushing through any change that risks putting inexperienced people in charge of heavy vehicles sooner than they’re ready.
“Scott Morrison is attempting to fly by the seat of his pants to cover up a supply chain mess of his own making,” said TWU national assistant secretary Nick McIntosh said.
“If Scott Morrison wants to address chronic driver shortages, he should go back to the letters sent by the TWU and ARTIO in September and October calling for a covid-safe transport roadmap with free rapid antigen tests for transport workers. After that, he should go back a month further to the Senate Report which outlined 10 recommendations to make trucking safer and more viable.
“Licencing reform isn’t a tick-box exercise politicians can do from their offices. If governments are going to alter licence rules, it’s non-negotiable that they consult with truckies and unions to develop a system that is fit for purpose and safe.”