ATC agrees to implement national licensing, rego scheme

By: Jason Whittaker

Heavy vehicle drivers will be funneled into a national registration scheme after the nation’s transport minister’s agreed to the reform

Heavy vehicle drivers will be funneled into a national registration scheme after the nation’s transport minister’s agreed to the reform during today’s Australian Transport Council (ATC) meeting.

From July 1 2009, those operating vehicles over 4.5 tonnes will need to apply for a national licence and a national registration certificate under the proposal.

A spokesman for federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says the agreement aims to streamline the licensing and registration system rather than having a select amount of the 375,000 heavy vehicle drivers carrying a national licence.

Ministers will work out cost and implementation when they next meet in August.

Albanese has hailed the decision, saying it is good news for road safety because all heavy vehicle drivers will need to meet the same high qualification standards to obtain a licence.

"It’s also good news for business because it means they can move their goods around the country without the red tape and cost of eight different registration systems," he says.

According to Albanese, a national licensing scheme is part of the Rudd Government’s commitment to overhauling regulatory burdens and building a national economy.

Furthermore, the state and territory ministers have also come on board in giving their in-principle support to the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) A New Beginning for Transport plan. They will now do further detailed work on the action before submitting it to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

By committing to the plan, the ministers now agree to "a single national approach to maritime legislation covering commercial vessel survey, certification, crew competencies and some operational practices," Albanese says.

They will also work with the transport industry to attract, train and retain workers to combat the skills shortages currently crippling the industry, establish a national road safety advisory council and also submit a report to the November ATC meeting on the progression to a national system for driver license and registration program.

As well as streamlining the licensing system, Albanese says the outcome will have positive flow-on benefits for the wide community.

"Ultimately the measures agreed to today are all about getting products onto supermarket shelves at the lowest cost, supporting the sustainable growth of our cities and giving working families better access to jobs, healthcare, schools and recreational activities," he says.

"It will also do more to prevent road deaths, help Australia meet its international climate change obligations, tackle the regulatory ‘red tape’ hindering national productivity and respond to emerging skill shortages."

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has applauded the move towards a single regulation system for heavy vehicles.

ATA Chief Executive Stuart St Clair says the decisions will increase safety, slash red tape and make it easier for the trucking industry to attract and train new employees.

"The Minister for Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, has shown a great deal of leadership in confronting the shambolic system we have now and recognising that it needs to go," he says.

"At the moment, most trucks are registered by the state and territory registration authorities, although trucks that operate on interstate routes can be registered under a federal scheme.

"The system is riddled with 108 years of anachronisms and quirks from previous failed attempts to establish consistent registration arrangements across the country.

St Clair says the establishment of the single licensing system will improve the training received by new truck drivers.

"The ATA is looking forward to working in partnership with the Government and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) to improve the existing graduated licensing system so it recognises competency-based qualifications," he says.

"What we need is a clear pathway of high quality training for people who want to work in the industry. It would improve safety and make it easier for the industry to attract staff."

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