Not good enough: Finemore blasts training standards

Ron Finemore calls for radical overhaul in the way industry attracts and trains drivers, saying current approach isn't good enough

Not good enough: Finemore blasts training standards
Not good enough: Finemore blasts training standards
By Brad Gardner

Trucking operator Ron Finemore has called for a radical overhaul in the way the industry attracts and trains drivers, saying the current approach is not good enough.

Fronting a parliamentary committee on education and training, the executive chairman of Ron Finemore Transport joined the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in saying current licensing and training standards are inadequate.

Finemore told the Standing Committee on Education and Training that simulators should be used in place of trucks, saying some companies are restricted in their efforts to train drivers because of a lack of resources.

"We have a very small number of single articulated vehicles…it is hard to transition people through the various vehicle sizes because we do not have the vehicles," Finemore says of his company.

Under current guidelines, drivers must wait a year before advancing to higher vehicle classes.

For instance, someone with a C-class licence must wait a year before learning to drive a medium rigid truck, while someone with a medium rigid licence must wait a year before learning to drive articulated vehicles.

The trucking veteran also called for an industry-wide levy to be imposed, saying the revenue should be allocated to companies with a strong safety record to pay for driver training.

According to Finemore, companies are discouraged to invest in training because there is no guarantee drivers will stay with their current employer.

"In my almost 50 years in the industry I have invested heavily in training and attracting people to the industry. However, that has also been to my detriment," he says.

Under Finemore’s system, funds will be allocated based on a company’s star rating, similar to the model used for hotels.

"I think we need to seriously consider that sort of thing," he says.

"At a certain star level you are trusted with the responsibility and get some funds to invest in training people."

And in a break from tradition, Finemore wants truck driving to be classified as a skilled role to give businesses access to more drivers.

"I spent quite a number of years—and in this environment we still have a shortage of drivers today—trying to bring drivers in from overseas. But we could not do it because it [truck driving] is not a skilled classification," Finemore says.

By classifying truck driving as a skill, Finemore says the industry may encourage more people to take up the profession, which is struggling to attract younger generations.

Labor MP Sharon Bird, who chairs the committee, suggested exploring the feasibility of school-based apprenticeships, with Finemore saying young people need a path to transition from school to the industry.

He also criticised the lack of respect shown to the trucking sector, saying politicians, bureaucrats and the community must recognise the importance of the road freight task to the economy.

"Mr [Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony] Albanese and others talk about more transfer to rail, but that is only going to take away a small part of the transport role," Finemore says.

TWU boss Tony Sheldon told the committee pay rates and a lack of traineeships are barriers to attracting young people to the industry.

Robert Hood, a TWU delegate, suggested a scheme whereby a school student studies three to four days a week and then spends a day on the road with a mentor.

Hood also cited the work hours as a key hindrance in attracting people to the trucking industry, saying the long hours spent driving affects family life and "leads to relationships disintegrating".

"It is amazing the amount of people in our yard, including myself, who have gone through recent break-ups," he says.

The Standing Committee on Education and Training is to inquire and report on the impact study and work has on youths transitioning to employment.

The committee is focussing on school-based training, the level of support for those combining work and study and ways to accredit a student’s part-time work towards their career.

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