Opinion

Why we must get it right with driver training

The current conversation in the industry centres around drivers and driver training. As a person who has done over 60 years in the industry, along with those of a similar vintage, we are called dinosaurs, but that doesn’t detract from the knowledge acquired from those years in the job and kilometres travelled.

I am concerned with the stupidity of some of the current drivers, especially multi-trailer drivers.

It is not a statutory offence to do stupid things, but you should lose your truck licence when it endangers others or damages equipment.

With dashcams and phone cameras, more and more evidence is showing up on social media pages that the stuff-ups are a major issue.  

I went for a job back in 1959 and the owner said to me: “If I want truck drivers, they are a dime a dozen and you can find them on any street corner, but I want long distance transport drivers. They are born, not just found on a corner. If you survive the first 12 months on interstate you might be good for my business. Now tell me why I should hire you.” 

Nothing has changed since that time. In fact, it’s worse. Truck drivers are still a dime a dozen.

We have few competent heavy vehicle driver trainers in Australia. To quote from a submission to the last senate enquiry into the industry by the Australian driver training association: “We don’t have members who can teach heavy vehicle driver training.”  

Now the government and the ATA have tapped the logistics council to draw up a criteria for TAFE colleges to teach accreditation courses for various transport subjects for future kids out of high school to take over the shortage of drivers and supply chain workers.

That has to be the most-inane decision ever by a government and out-of-touch big business. 

Some over-educated person, with no knowledge of the facts of the industry, will teach kids how to read draconian fatigue laws. 

Some will teach them how to read flawed load restraint laws, but will they teach them how to tarp a load, how to change a flat tyre, how to hear a problem in a motor or drive train, and when to stop, and how to load legal mass on a trailer?

This not being taught by current heavy vehicle testers. 

These people will be given the job to procure kids into the industry from schools, romancing them with photos of big shiny trucks they could drive, stories of being their own boss, seeing the country as part of the job.

However, these people also have a duty of care of full disclosure to these kids and parents, to tell them about the kids who have been killed in truck accidents.

This is the most dangerous vocation in Australia and the risk of death and serious injuries in accidents are an inherent risk on any day, and it doesn’t have to be your fault.

Will they disclose that wage theft is also how some companies survive with current freight rates? 

Wages for multi-combinations are a third of what they should be, and you will work up to 20 hours a week with no pay for unloading, loading and other jobs.

Will they tell you that shiny rig will need to washed and polished weekly for no wage as part of your job and that it can take up to 10 hours a week?

Will they tell them that human rights ‘provisions’ allowed to all other Australian workers are not allowed in this industry?

That making a mistake and error of judgment, self-incrimination are a not defence under NHVL and civil law by claims from employers?

Will they tell them that there are 12 offences in the NHVL law that carry fines that can equal a weekly wage that have nothing to do with driving offences?

Will they tell them two of the most dangerous things in transport is complacency and over-confidence and has killed more drivers than records show.

Back in the day we were told defensive driving tips to keep us alive. Some of today’s European trucks don’t have the in-cab provisions to allow you to do them, and other things we were taught are considered dangerous driving and land you in jail.

They have spent billions on the Hume and coast road to prevent truck accidents and to prevent another Grafton and Clybucca accident.

But the latest records for truck accidents on those roads show that has been a failure and it’s not if, but when it happens again, unless we get it right with driver training and keep experienced drivers on the road.

About the author:

Jerry Brown-Sarre started driving trucks in country Victoria when he was just 16 years of age. He went to Melbourne in 1959 and, just a year later, at 17, he started doing local and country heavy haulage driving interstate on the goat tracks for companies such as Mathersons, Bovalino, Mattock, Jack Leech, K L McKenzie, Barney Kerr, Blair Haulage, Ken McLean, and FrigMobile. He was inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame in 2005.

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