Opinion: Time to act on operator licensing

By: Michael Kilgariff

The UK is showing the way on a transport business competence strategy

Opinion: Time to act on operator licensing
Michael Kilgariff


Members of Australia’s logistics industry were fortunate to hear from James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive of the UK Freight Transport Association (FTA), who was in Australia to give a special guest presentation at the ALC Supply Chain Safety & Compliance Summit.

FTA represents and serves the transport interests of 14,500 British businesses, and the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) works with it to share information, ideas and best practice methodologies to improve supply chain efficiency and safety in Australia.  

The 250 people attending the summit heard how the UK’s’ operator licensing’ scheme works, and how it could potentially be applied in Australia.

The annual summit is ALC’s premier safety and compliance event, and demonstrates our commitment to spread industry awareness about organisations’ Chain of Responsibility obligations. 

ALC is of the belief that an operating licensing or accreditation scheme needs to be introduced nationally to ensure industry participants are competent to perform required tasks.

It was one of the key recommendations in ALC’s election priorities document Getting the Supply Chain Right, which we’ve provided to all MPs and Senators in the lead up to the commencement of the 45th parliament.

ALC also raised this point at the height of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal debate prior to the federal election, citing it as an example of a practical and effective way to drive improved safety outcomes in the heavy vehicle industry. 

There is a number of operator licensing schemes in existence around the world, and we could do well to study these to see how they could potentially be applied in Australia.

The concept is well established and has been in existence for a number of years.  It aims to maintain high standards of safety by ensuring licence holders are professionally competent, or that they employ someone who is professionally competent. 

Licensees have to demonstrate compliance with technical, safety or financial fitness requirements specified by the regulator.

It would involve the introduction of a national operating standard that requires an operator of a heavy vehicle to have in place both the financial capacity to operate a business and a uniform safety management system.   

The rationale is that only safe and reliable operators of goods and passenger vehicles are permitted to be licensed, and an operator's licence (or O licence) is the legal authority needed to operate goods vehicles in Great Britain.

ALC’s support for operating licensing is based on our concerns about the capacity of some road operators to operate a business in a business-like manner and, more particularly, that some operators do not maintain sufficient capital to maintain vehicles in a roadworthy state. 

These failings pose dangers to all road users – a point we will continue to make to the National Transport Commission and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

ALC understands that both operator licensing and mandatory heavy vehicle telematics – another priority road safety measure that ALC strongly supports – are to be progressed as part of the NTC’s Land Transport 2040 project.

But it is imperative that both these matters are given serious consideration by regulators and prioritised for action, and not left to languish indefinitely in the ‘to do’ pile…   

Industry is committed to working with the government to progress practical safety measures like Operator Licensing which are proven to be effective, as highlighted by James Hookham’s presentation to the ALC Supply Chain Safety & Compliance Summit.

ALC will continue to fight for schemes that deliver safer roads and safer heavy vehicles, for the benefit of all Australians.

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