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Heavy vehicle driver apprenticeship proposed for industry

Industry Reference Committee seeks start to lifting standards and recruitment


The Transport and Logistics Industry Reference Committee (IRC) is proposing a new Heavy Vehicle Driver Apprenticeship in response to industry’s call to professionalise the role, Australian Industry Standards (AIS) reports.

The apprenticeship, seen as a first step in a longer standards journey, would aim to address driver shortages nationally, create career pathways and ensure the safety of those working in the industry and all other road users.

Transport and logistics has faced driver shortages globally, with problem put into sharp relief this month in the UK with fuel distribution and other supply chain the symptoms.

Previously, the US faced its own labour shortages on its highways.

But also in the mix in Australia has been significant shortfalls with driver training, which has led to a Senate inquiry into that sector.

“The road transport industry plays a vital role in ensuring the safe, productive, and environmentally sound movement of goods and services throughout Australia,” the IRC states.

“The attraction of new entrants and the retention of professional heavy vehicle operators is a critical strategy for the achievement of these goals – and the establishment of a national apprenticeship is considered to be long overdue.

“The common misconception is road transport operators simply ‘drive a truck’. In reality, they are a profession that is integral to the achievement of the transport industry’s broader environmental, economic and social (i.e., safety) obligations to the Australian community.

“In the wake of the Covid experience that has shone a light on the vital role played by road transport in supporting the Australian economy, the IRC believes that now is the time to create a national Heavy Vehicle Driver apprenticeship.

“Such a move is a necessary first step towards raising the profile of the professionalism of the Australian road transport driver workforce in line with the significance and vital standing of the industry within the overall national economy.”

The IRC said it believed that the creation of this apprenticeship will help mitigate some challenges, particularly in relation to the national heavy vehicle licensing system and the current utilisation of national traineeships.


Read how the Sterle Report backed the concept, here

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) welcomed the release of a consultation paper.

 “It’s no secret that operators around the country have difficulty recruiting truck drivers,” ATA chair David Smith said.  

“There is a shortage of new starters in the trucking industry, and it’s due to the image of the industry and the image of truck driving as a career.  

“By improving the professionalism of the industry, strengthening driver training would make driving a more attractive career.”

The consultation paper notes that the sourcing and retention of professional heavy vehicle operators plays a critical role in ensuring the safe, productive and environmentally sound movement of goods and services throughout Australia.  

“The ATA has long called for stronger and more comprehensive truck driver licensing and training,” Smith said. 

“There is a significant skills shortage that must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Smith thanked federal Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz for his commitment to industry training and this issue.  

“Trucking is essential to our supporting our economy and our lifestyles, with trucks on our roads and highways all day, every day,” he said. 

“Scott Buchholz understands that improving driver training would not only benefit transport companies; it would also result in safer roads, safer people and safer communities.”

The committee is now seeking feedback on the paper, with everyone in the industry encouraged to share their views. 

The ATA said it will work with its members to prepare a detailed response. 

The proposal consultation paper can be found here.

Industry feedback can be given here.


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