NatRoad promotes more experience for heavy truck licensing

By: Graham Gardiner

A NatRoad proposal to force those wanting heavy combination or multi combination vehicle licenses to go through a driver experience

A NatRoad proposal to force those wanting heavy combination or multi combination vehicle licenses to go through a driver experience program will reduce the amount of inexperienced heavy vehicle drivers, according to NatRoad CEO Bernie Belacic.

NatRoad’s Industry Issues Committee proposes drivers should hold a rigid vehicle license for one year with a minimum of 100 hours experience before attaining a heavy combination license. The committee proposes 200 hours experience coupled with one year driving a heavy combination license before progressing to multi combination vehicles. If passed, the proposal will require drivers to record the number of hours in a log book, with employers signing it.

Currently, to drive heavy combination and multi combination trucks, drivers need only hold an appropriate vehicle license for one year without having to know how to operate either vehicle, Belacic says.

"It just seems a bit ironic that potentially you could have someone who has got a multi combination license but has not actually driven a truck (other than once when undertaking the driving test)."

The NatRoad CEO says the current system is flawed because it allows potentially inexperienced drivers to operate heavy vehicles.

"There are a number of horror stories whereby the driver did not have a clue; they were incapable," he says.

"In addition to having 12 months, there should be some kind of system to say ‘wait on a minute, have they actually been driving a truck in that period’?"

Belacic says NatRoad’s proposal will result in more experienced drivers because those who take part in the program will be safer behind the wheel as opposed to those who have a heavy or multi combination license but have not driven either vehicle more than once.

"It’s not about getting any driver, it’s about getting good drivers," he says.

However, Belacic concedes the proposal may add to the skill shortage crisis currently affecting the trucking industry. He says the time taken to attain a heavy or multi combination license may deter drivers from progressing to larger vehicles.

"For many, potentially it’s an additional discouragement," he says.

Despite this, employers stand to benefit from the scheme.

"You might actually get the opportunity to recruit someone who is a good driver because they do have some experience," Belacic says.

"It will provide an employer with some history because at the moment they’ve got none."

So far only members of NatRoad have voiced their opinions on the proposal.

Although a number of members are yet to respond, Belacic says the feedback to date has been positive.

"So far we have had quite a bit of support, but that’s not to say people won’t disagree," he says.

"A lot of members haven’t responded."

Depending on the type of feedback the proposal receives will determine whether NatRoad will lobby state governments to enforce the driver licensing program.

"If we get positive feedback then we’ll look in February and start to raise the issue with the states," Belacic says.

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