Driver competency framework set for new reviews

By: Andrew Hobbs

Austroads will set up a working party to deal with issues rising from its report into the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework

Driver competency framework set for new reviews
Setting a minimum time for driver training under the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework is one of the ideas proposed


A minimum time for both theory and behind-the-wheel training and a focus on skills development will be considered in future reviews of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework, following an independent report into the scheme.

Road transport peak organisation Austroads says it will set up a working group to help decide what its future priorities should be for the Framework, after completing its report into the scheme earlier this month.

The Framework was first set up in 2011 as a way to establish minimum competency standards for heavy vehicle drivers.

It has been adopted by the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, with the Northern Territory expected to join the scheme later this year.

In its report, Austroads says the standard of training and assessment mandated by the Framework is often inadequate, with some students obtaining a heavy vehicle licence after less than one day of training.

"The principle of training being based, not on time spent in a training course, but on development and assessment of competency is an important concept," the report says.

"However, the market-based approach which does not mandate minimum training and practical experience durations is resulting in a ‘race to the bottom’ in the current environment."

While it says transport regulators should take a more active role in setting and monitoring training standards, it said the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector is best placed to deliver what it says should be a training-based approach to skill development.

"Greater emphasis should be placed on the development of skills in responding to contingencies - options such as simulators, off road skid pans, video and associated tests could be considered," the report says.

Austroads says licensing regulators should also work to deliver core national training material and develop nationally consistent training for people who are training and assessing students.

It also recognises a need for specific training to up-skill trainers and assessors in licensing competencies.

Gaps in available information

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Ben Maguire said the report showed the Framework was "inadequate" for what it tried to do.

He singled out the current heavy rigid training unit, also known as TLILIC2016, which he said failed to address six out of the ten safety risks it identifies.

Austroads’ report says the final assessment for that unit only refers to testing students on roads with moderate inclines and declines, and under typical weather conditions.

There is no reference to assessing the skills of students in wet, windy or foggy conditions, or at dusk or night, or on roads that were steep, slippery, unsealed or narrow.

"It is unclear why such crucial information is not included in the unit of competency itself, and in the assessment guidelines," the report says.

It also noted that the assessment tool would be provided by the local state or territory licensing authority, which it said suggested that a driver licensed in one jurisdiction will not have demonstrated the same skills as a driver from another jurisdiction.

"The poor quality of the driver training system is an insult to Australia’s expert, hard-working truck drivers, who have spent many years learning their profession."

He called on Australian transport ministers to consider the results of the review when they meet in Darwin for the Transport and Infrastructure Council today.


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