Australia, Transport News

Austroads and ministers support heavy vehicle training reform package

Austroads says the new reforms will help improve road safety and productivity, with the approach being approved by transport ministers

Austroads has announced that Australia’s transport ministers have agreed in-principle to an improved, nationally consistent approach to the training and licence progression of heavy drivers that it says will improve road safety and productivity. 

The in-principle changes were approved by infrastructure and transport ministers this month through an agreement by the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers Meeting (ITMM). 

The ITMM has come out and endorsed the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework Decision Regulation Impact Statement (DecisionRIS). 

Austroads says the changes are designed to increase the safety and job-readiness of heavy vehicle drivers. 

Decision-RIS proposals include redesigned learning and assessment requirements specific to each licence class, minimum course lengths and behind-the-wheel times, flexible training and assessment courses online for licence applicants and a new experience-based licence progression pathway. 

Austroads says that once the pathways are put in place, drivers will be able to upgrade from a medium rigid licence to a multi-combination licence in as little as six months compared to two years currently. 

This rapid progression is made possible by the risk mitigation strategies that have been introduced at the same time. 

This includes required driving experience, fastest progression to drivers who’ve been mentored by an experience professional driver, minimum training and assessment times being put into place, and more fully defined competencies that must be progressively developed and demonstrated. 

Austroads says it will develop best practice standards and training material to support consistent delivery of the enhanced heavy vehicle competencies and assessments. 

Research by Austroads showed that the existing approach to the training and licensing of truck and bus drivers in Australia could substantially improve. 

This includes bus and truck driver training not sufficiently focused on key driver related risks to road safety, inconsistent heavy vehicle driver training and licencing as well as a slow heavy vehicle licence progression rate. 

Austroads CEO Geoff Allan says he’s thankful for the contributions from the ministers and agencies to ensure the package meets the needs for improved safety and productivity. 

“Major national reform is always challenging,” Allan says.  

This process and the road safety and productivity benefits it will deliver demonstrate Australia’s cooperative federalism at work. 

“The states and territories have agreed to changes that could be challenging to implement in order to achieve a better overall outcome for the Australian community. This deserves to be recognised and applauded.” 

Allan says that the ministers have been considering a range of options to improve truck and bus safety and that Austroads appreciates working with them. 

“Recent major incidents such as the tragic NSW Hunter Valley bus crash have highlighted the need for significant change, with the NSW Bus Safety Task Force looking to review bus driver training, competency and skill levels in their future reports,” Allan says. 

“The changes will facilitate the delivery of harmonised heavy vehicle training and assessment, strengthening driver competencies and improving licensing policy to fast-track job readiness.” 

Allan says Austroads will work with each state and territory government, along with the different industries to fully scope the implementation program, identify policy, service and stakeholder issues and options. 

He says it will also seek to collaboratively develop a coordinated plan to deliver the anticipated safety and productivity benefits of the reform. 

We will be actively engaging with the driver training and heavy vehicle industries, providing information as well as opportunities for input into on-the-ground delivery elements,” Allan says. 

“National project scoping and resolution of policy and related issues will be undertaken in stages with Australia’s transport ministers kept up to date on both national and jurisdictional progress.” 

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