Heavy vehicle training: towards a better national scheme
The importance of high quality and nationally consistent training for
heavy vehicle drivers came into sharp focus during the committee's inquiry into
aspects of road safety in Australia.
The M5 incident is just one example that highlights the potential for untrained
and inexperienced heavy vehicle drivers to threaten safety on Australian roads
and the road transport economy. On that occasion, the drivers' disregard for
low clearance restrictions and inability to safely re-route the vehicle caused inconvenience
and delays for other drivers as well as a significant commitment of state
government resources. The committee recognises that the situation could have
been much worse.
The committee recognises that the vast majority of the road transport
industry operates with far greater care and diligence than that displayed on
the M5 in February 2016. Throughout the inquiry, the committee's overriding
concern has rested with preparing heavy vehicle drivers for the real challenges
on our roads in order to prevent a similar incident.
Despite some progress towards harmonisation and improved standards,
witnesses have provided evidence of a gap between the ideal and reality of
heavy vehicle training in Australia. This chapter considers evidence that:
implementation of the national Heavy Vehicle Competency Based
Assessment (HVCBA) scheme has been slow, and its inconsistent application creates
issues for drivers, instructors and assessors;
the quality of heavy vehicle instructors and assessors in
Australia varies greatly, with some lacking practical industry experience;
the standard required to pass heavy vehicle driving assessments
is low and the key competencies required of drivers do not focus on safety; and
some instructors and assessors are able to engage in unscrupulous
and corrupt behaviour in a system that lacks appropriate scrutiny and
National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework
On 25 July 2008, transport ministers agreed that 'heavy vehicle reforms
should deliver a consistent approach' to assessment.
Nine years on, the committee heard that national standards for competency assessment
for heavy vehicle drivers' licences are far from being achieved.
Flowing from this ministerial agreement, the National Heavy Vehicle
Driver Competency Working Group (NHVDC Working Group) was established as a
project team under the sponsorship of Austroads, the peak organisation of
Australasian road transport and traffic agencies.
In November 2009, the group called for industry comment on a 'Summary of
matters under consideration for a National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency
Framework' (NHVDC Framework) including:
applying eligibility criteria consistently across all Australian
integrating the skills set for each class of heavy vehicle drivers'
licence into the VET Transport and Logistics Industry Training Package;
commercial service providers (including registered training
organisations (RTOs)) administering final competency assessments as a matter of
licensing authorities administering final competency assessments
only where administration by RTOs is not practical, such as in remote areas;
state and territory licensing authorities implementing the framework
consistently, confining jurisdictional variations to back-office systems.
In its 2010 submission to the working group, the ATA described national
consistency in implementation as 'paramount' to attracting and retaining
drivers and addressing skills attainment issues, arguing:
Transport Ministers and Licensing Authorities have a historic
opportunity to align heavy vehicle licensing with competency-based training and
assessment in such a way as to remove many barriers to the attraction, [and] retention
of vocational qualifications attainment which bedevil the road freight industry
The ATA highlighted the need for skilled and competent drivers to keep
up with the growing complexity of the industry with its larger and more
technical vehicles, increased travelling distances, rising customer
expectations and stronger regulatory and safety environments.
Following this consultation process, the working group's NHVDC Framework
was endorsed in March 2011 by the Standing Committee on Transport,
a group operating beneath the then Australian Transport Council. The standing
committee comprises the heads of each Commonwealth, state and territory
government department with policy responsibility for transport.
Ms Melinda Bailey of RMS in NSW told the committee that the development
of the framework was a truly national effort, intended to have national
The intention of the national framework...was that all states
would be involved...The standards were developed by the national heavy vehicle
competency assessment working group that was formed by all of the
jurisdictions. The best at the time around the nation got together to define
those 15 criteria.
Evidence to the committee suggests that the progress of the NHVDC
Framework has stalled, demonstrated by the fact that it is:
yet to be implemented nationally, as it is only applied in NSW,
Victoria, Tasmania and partially in Queensland; and
implemented inconsistently between and even within jurisdictions,
which provides scope for loopholes and slipping standards.
In December 2011, a Queensland Government Driver Training Industry
Working Group Newsletter foreshadowed the implementation and transition
arrangements in jurisdictions including Queensland:
The National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Working Group is
presently considering how jurisdictions can implement the National Heavy
Vehicle Driver Competency Framework in a coordinated manner.
Within Queensland, necessary approvals and implementation
plans need to be set, which involve legislation changes and changes to IT
systems etc. TMR has been keeping industry informed of progress made so far,
and we are committed to continue to keep industry informed – allowing for
sufficient time to transition to new arrangements.
Almost five years after this industry update, Mr Stapleton of the Queensland
department told the committee that Queensland 'never fully adopted the national
scheme'. He explained:
We only took one step, and that was multicombination
vehicles. For Queensland you still come through our driver training centres for
testing and for everything but the final step.
The national framework envisaged that RTOs would be audited on a
national basis by the national regulator of the VET sector, the Australian
Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). Mr Stapleton explained that in Queensland,
however, TMR is 'auditing our own people' for assessments in all classes except
Queensland applies the national framework administered by RTOs for MC
licences and relies on ASQA for auditing.
Mr Stapleton explained Queensland's partial move towards the national framework
flows from its previous investment in time-based learning schemes:
...we had a number of schemes that we were running in
Queensland back at that time, where you could do time based learning on the
job....Those schemes had to be brought to an end before we could actually move
to a full national frame. It has taken us a lot longer than the other states to
go through and get into that space. The only thing we were actually able to
move at that point was MC...For us, that was the one step we were able to easily
do in this process.
In March 2017, the committee was advised that only NSW and Victoria fully
participate in the national framework, having a 'mutual recognition'
arrangement in place between the two jurisdictions.
The committee acknowledges, however, that from 22 March 2017, Tasmania also
implemented the national framework.
The committee notes that in other jurisdictions, heavy vehicle driver
training and assessment is conducted in the following diverse ways:
In South Australia, authorised driving instructors deliver
competency-based training courses or vehicle on road tests,
some of which are attended by Department for Transport, Energy and
Infrastructure accreditation auditors.
Western Australian Driver and Vehicle Service centres and agents
deliver practical driving assessments and theory tests for Heavy Rigid (HR) and
Heavy Combination (HC) classes, as do authorised RTOs. Similar to Queensland,
however, MC class assessments are only delivered by RTOs.
There are two streams of assessment for all heavy vehicle classes
in the Northern Territory, with Motor Vehicle Registry authorised assessment
officers delivering practical driving assessments and RTOs delivering training
and assessment courses.
In the Australian Capital Territory, knowledge assessments are delivered
online and accredited heavy vehicle assessors undertake practical driving
For MC licences, government-contracted providers may also deliver courses and
The committee was heartened to learn that Austroads is currently undertaking
a review of the NHVDC Framework.
The committee understands that a consultant has been engaged by Austroads to
the governance, regulatory and monitoring
arrangements employed by each jurisdiction in delivering heavy vehicle driver training
and assessment either through the Framework or other model so that Austroads
can make informed decisions about the future of heavy vehicle driver training
in Australia [and]
the appropriateness and adequacy, including the
link to safety outcomes, of heavy vehicle river training package content and
heavy vehicle trainer qualifications under the Framework.
The committee considers this review to be long
overdue. Accordingly, it encourages the transport industry's experienced
stakeholders to provide input to the consultations that are underway with transport
regulators, heavy vehicle industry representatives and training providers.
In conducting this review, the committee
encourages Austroads to consider the issues with heavy vehicle training and
assessment that were raised in evidence to this inquiry. These matters are
discussed in the remainder of this chapter.
Need for consistency
Witnesses told the committee that the jurisdictional requirements for
heavy vehicle training and assessment need to be harmonised, as the current
differences create loopholes which can lead to poor training outcomes and can
be exploited by unscrupulous operators.
The ATA called for consistency between states and territories and RTOs
so that standards are uniform and reform is possible. Mr Bill McKinley of the
ATA told the committee:
...we do need to make sure that the basic standards are the
same and that the national interaction between the RTOs, who deliver the
training and, in many cases, can access government funding to do that, and the
state regulatory arms happen on a consistent and direct basis so that, when
action is needed, it happens straightaway.
Representatives of heavy vehicle operator Scott's Transport told the
committee that in their experience, different testing regimes are leading to
inconsistent standards between jurisdictions. Mr Forster explained:
In our tests that we are checking ourselves, we are finding
great disparity in the testing regimes in all the states. I think that
something needs to be done to make them all the same; for example, in many
states a B-double driver does not have to back his truck to get a licence.
Mr Warwick Burrows of RTO bctraining provided a theoretical example of
the potential for drivers to forum shop between jurisdictions to obtain a
licence with the minimum levels of training or experience:
Our real problem comes where there are cross-border
differences between the expected quality or assessment criteria for drivers in
other states and in New South Wales. New South Wales is the most rigorous;
there is no doubt about it. That is not to say the rest are not...
You can, for example, go to Queensland—and...get your B-double
licence and come back in 50 hours across the border, change your licence
quickly enough and drive down with a New South Wales MC licence and not have
done any real experience in a lesser or greater truck, be it HC or whatever. Up
there they can get an HR licence, have someone sign a letter and take it into
roads up there. They give them a B-double and away they go.
Even within jurisdictions that have implemented the national framework, inconsistencies
can arise in the delivery of heavy vehicle training and assessment. For
example, the committee heard evidence that in NSW, heavy vehicle driver testing
is performed differently by RMS assessors and the RTOs, even though both are
authorised to issue the same licences through the logbook-style Heavy Vehicle
Competency Based Assessment (HVCBA).
According to the RMS website, the RMS-administered heavy vehicle driver
test is a location-based alternative to the HVCBA for all licences except the MC
class. It states that 'the primary method to get a Heavy Vehicle License is to
complete a Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment (HVCBA) with an Accredited
Training Provider'. However, acknowledging that 'HVCBA may not be available in
all areas of NSW', drivers are told that '[i]n these areas, you can take a
heavy vehicle driving test with a Roads and Maritime or Service NSW testing
Heavy vehicle trainer and assessor, Mr Tony Richens, told the committee
that the two assessment methods have created 'double standards' in NSW heavy
vehicle driver licensing. He argued:
We are competing with [RMS] for assessment business, but we
have two very different standards. The RMS assessors are not required to have
an in-cab camera for their assessments...The RMS assessors do not have the same
test criteria...The RMS assessors are not even required to hold a class of
licence for three years before being able to assess.
Mr Richens called for greater scrutiny of the results of the two
assessment streams in NSW, asking '[h]as any analysis been done on the outcome
of these two different processes of assessment, comparing fail rates, accidents
and incidents afterwards?'
Further, Mr Burrows of bctraining, observed that once drivers are licenced, the
NSW system offers subsequent employers 'no visibility' of which stream they
Quality of instructors/assessors
The method by which a person can become a trainer or assessor varies
greatly across the country. Mirroring their approach to training heavy vehicle
drivers, jurisdictions including Queensland, NSW and Western Australia offer heavy
vehicle driver trainers and assessors an alternative assessment conducted by in‑house
departmental assessors rather than at RTOs.
The difference between jurisdictions is particularly stark when
considering the level of industry experience required for accreditation as an
instructor or assessor. The committee understands that Western Australia and
Victoria are unusual in requiring, respectively, that instructors have a minimum
of 3 continuous years' experience driving the vehicle class taught
or evidence of 12 months driving that vehicle over a five year period.
Mr Angelo Herft of VicRoads assured the committee that VicRoads would
follow the trail back to make sure that at least 12 months of experience could
be verified, explaining:
We make checks to make sure that the person on the other end
of the phone can verify the evidence they have provided us... If one of the
documents is that you did 12 months worth of driving for company X back in 2015
or whatever, we will make that call to determine whether you were employed
there, what size vehicle you drove and whether you were there for five minutes,
two years or whatever it may be on your resume.
The committee remains of the view that this system of 'checks' is
inherently corruptible. For example, Mr Herft acknowledged that when calls are
made to verify industry experience and other evidence provided to VicRoads, its
officers could be speaking to anyone who could say anything on the phone.
For trainers and assessors delivering nationally-recognised training
through RTOs, industry experience is required but, in the committee's view, the
metric for assessing whether that experience exists is unclear. ASQA explained
that those trainers and assessors:
...must hold industry competence, so they must be competent in
the skills and knowledge that they are teaching or assessing, and they must be
current in their industry knowledge. They must have the skills they are
teaching or assessing, they must have the knowledge they are teaching or
assessing and that must be current. So they must be up-to-date with the
knowledge. Effectively, they must be capable of being a current practitioner in
whatever it is they are training and assessing.
When questioned further, Mr David Garner of ASQA told the committee that
despite ASQA's regular audit activities, some variation in the levels of
industry experience held by instructors and assessors would necessarily remain:
We could not guarantee that every single trainer and
assessor—and we are talking somewhere in the order of 50,000 people—has exactly
that level of expertise. They are certainly required to do so and, when we
conduct audits or other regulatory activities, we test that industry
experience. But we could not, in all honesty, say that at any point in time
every single person in this sector complies with that requirement.
Having noted a variation in standards regarding industry experience
required of heavy vehicle trainers and assessors around the country, the
committee notes evidence from witnesses which suggested that industry experience
is fundamental to adequately train and assess other drivers. For example, Mr
Michael Humphries of the Australian Driver Training Association (ADTA),
described new trainers as 'ill‑equipped' in a practical sense, providing
anecdotal evidence that:
The new instructors that are coming in have had no or little
industry experience, which means that, when a student says, 'How do I fill in
my work diary?'... some of the instructors are unfortunately unable to tell them.
We have instructors who are unable to explain the chain of responsibility and
how it works and why it is important that you know what your role is before you
go out and hit the road. I am sick of hearing young people obtaining a licence
and being knocked off for a couple of hundred bucks worth of fines a couple of
days later for not having written their garaging address in the front of their
The problems that flow from instructors lacking industry experience were
echoed by Mr McKinley of the ATA, who argued 'there is no substitute for that
practical experience' which is 'essential'.
Likewise, Mr Burrows of bctraining was of the view that:
...within the regime there is no testing as to this person's
real ability or knowledge as to what is actually going to be able to be
imparted on any prospective student or client. So, at the end of the day, you
end up with someone who is in it, colloquially, for the money. They pass the
criteria. They get all the ticks in all the boxes.
Low standards that do not focus on
Perhaps flowing from the problem of ill-equipped instructors and
assessors, the committee heard that the standard required of drivers who seek
heavy vehicle licensing has dropped to unacceptably low levels.
As a result, in some jurisdictions, it has become too easy to get a heavy
Witnesses identified a pattern that has developed among learner drivers,
who do not understand the responsibilities of a heavy vehicle licence, but
expect to pass any testing on the first attempt.
Mr Humphries of the ADTA explained that:
...we have huge issues with the desire for short and less
thorough courses, and would we accept this in other industries?...We expect
that standard from our doctors and everyone else, yet there seems to be an
expectation that getting a truck licence should be an easy task.
Mr McKinley of the ATA explained the implications for the skill level
and safety practices of heavy vehicle drivers who have their licences promised
and issued 'in a day', telling the committee that:
We have situations where people are getting licences, but
they don't end up understanding the broader safety context they have to work
in. They don't have an understanding of load restraint or fatigue or chain of
responsibility. So we end up with badly undertrained drivers emerging with
truck driver licences, but they do not have the skills they need to work in the
Mr Burrows of bctraining agreed with the committee's suggestion that a
culture in the heavy vehicle industry had developed whereby regulators are
encouraged to 'cut red tape' by granting heavy vehicle driver competency to
almost all applicants, leading to very low failure rates in most courses. It
was suggested that the development of this culture was partly attributable to
the high demand for drivers.
By way of example, Mr Burrows estimated that fail rates for NSW heavy
vehicle driver assessments conducted by RTOs are as low as 'six or seven per
cent across the board', resulting in pass rates of up to 94 per cent. By way of
contrast, in his own RTO in 2016, there were only 25 fail/termination ratings given
of the 1178 assessments conducted, which is as low as 'a quarter of one per
When the committee requested information about the success rates of NSW assessments
conducted by RMS rather than by RTOs, it received evidence that pass rates over
the four years 2013–2016 were even higher: on average 95.5 per cent across that
period. RMS argued, however, that the pass rate is declining:
The number of assessments performed since 2013 has increased
at an average rate of 24 per cent each year. The average pass rate since 2013
has declined by approximately 2 per cent each year on average. Annual figures
are detailed in the table below:
Following questioning about the high pass rates in NSW, RMS provided
evidence that their internal auditing arrangements are designed to identify individual
assessors who achieve particularly high pass rates or conduct high volumes of
assessments, noting that it would also flag these matters in audits of NSW RTOs
to be conducted by ASQA.
To raise the standard of heavy vehicle driver training and restore its
safety focus, some witnesses called for more comprehensive training and testing across jurisdictions to mitigate the risk of
Based on his experience as a trainer in NSW, Mr Richens suggested that 'a more
comprehensive online knowledge test be designed that heightens awareness of the
actual complexities of obtaining a heavy vehicle licence'.
The ADTA called for a 'strong set of performance criteria attached to
the competency standard...set down by ASQA', telling the committee 'it is not as
prescriptive as it should be' and contains 'anomalies' that can allow
incompetent or inexperienced drivers to pass.
The ATA suggested that improvements may be forthcoming to the standard
of training and assessment in VET-based units offered by RTOs, as:
The reference committee covering the trucking industry, the Transport
and Logistics Industry Reference Committee, have now developed a proposed
schedule of work to upgrade the driver training and heavy vehicle safety VET
While this is an encouraging development for training and assessment
conducted by RTOs, the committee notes that alternative training and assessment
paths still exist in most jurisdictions. Accordingly, more needs to be done to lift
standards consistently across the nation. The committee is of the view that
pass rates should be examined closely at a national level, either as part of
the Austroads review or in an audit by ASQA.
Contributors to the inquiry, particularly from NSW, raised a number of
issues with the integrity of nationally-recognised heavy vehicle training and
assessment as conducted by RTOs. As Mr Humphries of the ADTA put it, '[t]he
reality is that there are dodgy operators in the system'.
The oversight of RTOs by ASQA was identified as an issue in the
committee's interim report. The committee made the following recommendation:
The committee recommends that Australian Skills Quality
Authority conduct an audit of all heavy vehicle driver training facilities
(registered training organisations) in Australia.
Since its interim report, the committee heard renewed calls for
strengthened compliance activity to ensure a more universal application of
heavy vehicle driver competency standards and the elimination of unique
requirements in NSW that can have adverse results for trainers, assessors and
The committee notes that the monitoring and compliance regime in heavy
vehicle assessments in NSW has been heavily influenced by the outcomes of the
'Binos case', which led to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption's
(ICAC) 2013–14 Operation Nickel. In circumstances not dissimilar to the M5
...investigated allegations that Christopher Binos, a former
heavy vehicle competency-based assessor acting on behalf of Roads and Maritime
Services (RMS), solicited benefits from applicants for heavy vehicle licences,
and conducted fraudulent heavy vehicle assessments. It was also alleged that Mr
Binos signed log books certifying applicants as competent to drive a heavy
vehicle without the applicants completing the necessary assessments, in exchange
for cash payments.
Following its investigation, ICAC recommended that RMS require RTOs to implement
'in‑cabin video camera and GPS technology solutions to record and monitor
HVCBA final competency assessments'. It recommended that RMS implement systems,
processes and business rules to own, collect, review and archive the
recordings, including utilising the recordings to 'enhance the auditing of the
RMS responded in April 2014 with an implementation plan to give effect to the
recommendation, with the caveat that RTOs would themselves 'own, collect and
Since 1 September 2014, RMS has required mandatory in‑cabin video and GPS
technology during assessments.
The implementation of in-cabin video camera and GPS technology solutions
was positively received by witnesses from both NSW
and Victoria which has an equivalent requirement.
For example, Mr Burrows of bctraining gave evidence that his organisation's 32
assessors all use multiple cameras without difficulty.
Mr Herft of VicRoads explained the auditing capability that the technology
enables in Victoria:
All the providers are required to record each test, clearly
identifying the client, the record number, the test number and all that sort of
business, their licence number, the date, the time—the whole range. All those
videos are eventually taken up by VicRoads, once we recall them, and we keep
those. We audit them, either randomly or if we have a complaint about one
particular assessor or something like that. So we will audit those and look for
anything from fraudulent activity to perhaps training issues.
The committee has already considered the issue of single jurisdictions
providing multiple training and assessment pathways, and compliance is another
area where this seems to create problems. Trainer and assessor Mr Richens
expressed concern that while trainers and assessors who work for RTOs in NSW
are required to comply, 'RMS assessors are not required to have an in-cab
camera for their assessments'.
Some witnesses criticised NSW-specific audit procedures as overly
complex and often ineffective.
One example of this is the separation of training and assessment, a condition
applied from 1 September 2015 to 'improve the integrity of the HVCBA Scheme by
mitigating fraud and corruption risk, and conflict of interest'.
RMS told the committee that, of the states that have adopted the national
framework, only NSW has 'implemented the separation of training and assessment
as a scheme condition to ensure the assessor is independent of the person
delivering the training'.
The committee heard a range of objections to the separation of training
and assessment in NSW. Interestingly, the objections started with concerns raised
by RMS in its response to the ICAC report into the Binos case.
The ICAC report acknowledged early objections from RMS to the proposal, in
particular 'that splitting the assessment from the training is not practicable',
and would place onerous demands on the industry and applicants in regional
Despite this early objection, the NSW Government implemented the separation of
training and assessment in 2015.
It appears to the committee that unfortunately, RMS's prediction was
accurate in relation to the impact on regional areas. By way of example, Mr Burrows
of bctraining gave evidence that:
The effect on smaller RTOs and trainer-assessors in regional
New South Wales has been devastating, causing hardship and negative impact on
their businesses. Some have had their incomes drastically reduced. Some have
been forced out of business, giving the larger operators the monopoly in the
area. And applicants are being disadvantaged by not being able to access
training and assessment in their own local area.
The separation of heavy vehicle training and assessment in NSW was
further criticised by witnesses and submitters as:
adding to the corruption it was designed to cut down on 'by way
of people teaming together';
a 'logistical nightmare' especially in regional centres;
'prejudicial and commercially unviable' due to the need to share
client information and a percentage with competitors;
'totally unnecessary regulation that only complicates...the audit
process' especially given that in-cabin video record all tests;
inconsistent with the approach taken by VicRoads;
having led to the industry losing 'fabulous assessors' with
considerable experience who were unable to comply with part 4.2D;
having 'created a monopoly for other assessors and RTOs who were
multiple employees of a business against a single operator in any given town'.
While state-specific regulations are beyond the scope of this inquiry,
this example highlighted the necessity for a national competency framework that
considers the needs of all system users, including those in remote and regional
areas. The addition of compliance measures that have adverse consequences would
appear to create more harm than good.
In place of jurisdiction-specific compliance measures, the committee
heard calls for greater scrutiny of RTOs by the national body ASQA. The ATA
gave evidence that the 'relationship between the state road transport
authorities, ASQA and the VET system is unresolved everywhere'.
Mr McKinley explained that in NSW, this results in a communication breakdown
that has to be addressed if heavy vehicle training is to be improved:
What concerns us in particular is the apparent lack of
communication between RMS, on the one hand, and ASQA, on the other. The RTOs
are simultaneously regulated by ASQA, because they're registered training
organisations, and, because they're driver training organisations, by the state
department. Yet there is a lack of communication between the VET side of the training
system and the road transport regulation side of the training system. That gap
has got to be closed in order to ensure that heavy vehicle drivers are trained
well and safely and properly.
The ATA reported having 'discussions with ASQA about the issue of driver
training generally and the need to police it more strongly'.
Indeed, Mr Garner of ASQA told the committee that '[w]e have heard claims that
there are differing standards between providers'. He explained that a 'provider
who has a higher number of complaints is obviously a higher risk to us and is
more likely to come under more robust regulatory scrutiny in the future'.
The committee notes evidence that ASQA has received few complaints about
heavy vehicle driver training and assessment, which does not accord with
evidence received during the inquiry of underhanded practices in the training
industry. Mr Garner of ASQA gave evidence that:
In the last two years, we have received a total of two
complaints in this area. One of these was against an organisation that is not a
registered training organisation, which was purporting to be able to offer
nationally recognised training. There was one complaint about a registered
training organisation. So there are very low levels of what we would call noise
or intelligence in the system in this particular area.
The lack of use of ASQA's complaints mechanism in relation to heavy
vehicle training and assessment leads the committee to conclude that more can
be done by the national body to investigate and protect the integrity of the
Australia needs to move towards a more comprehensive and consistently
applied national scheme for the training and assessment of heavy vehicle
drivers. The promise of the NHVDC Framework has been undermined by its lack of
universal application both within and between Australian states and territories,
and by evidence of falling standards and lack of reform.
The committee has heard concerning evidence that there is a wide
variation in the quality of instructors/assessors in the heavy vehicle
industry. In particular, the committee was told that some lack industry
experience and are therefore unable to equip new drivers with the necessary
skills and understanding of the practical realities of the industry. As a result,
the industry risks diluting its own talent pool with underqualified drivers.
Considering that almost a decade has passed since transport ministers
acknowledged the need for national consistency in training and assessment, the
2017 Austroads review of the NHVDC Framework is well overdue. The committee
encourages governments to give the review the support and resources it requires
to adequately discharge its important task.
Following the Austroads review, or indeed alongside its progress, the
committee encourages the remaining states and territories to take concrete
steps to implement the NHVDC Framework. Acknowledging that the change process
will require resources and infrastructure, the committee recalls the commitment
expressed by jurisdictions in 2011 to a truly national scheme.
In place of jurisdiction-specific compliance measures, the committee
encourages all states and territories to work together through the TIC to
improve the quality of the national framework, and to ensure it meets the needs
of users across the country, in metropolitan as well as regional and remote
areas. The committee calls on ASQA to assist the transport industry by looking
more closely, and in a systemic fashion, at the RTOs who deliver heavy vehicle
training and assessment. This inquiry has demonstrated that any threat to the
integrity of heavy vehicle training and assessment is a threat to road safety
The committee recommends that the Austroads review consider:
raising the standard required of heavy vehicle drivers under
the Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment (HVCBA), with a renewed focus on
national consistency in relation to heavy vehicle instructor
or assessor eligibility, including requiring mandatory industry experience in
driving and handling the appropriate vehicle.
Following the Austroads review, the committee recommends that the COAG Transport and Infrastructure Council work to
ensure that all jurisdictions adopt the revised criteria of the National Heavy Vehicle
Driver Competency Framework (NHVDC Framework) as a matter of urgency.
The committee recommends that the Australian Skills Quality Authority
(ASQA) take a more active role in monitoring the delivery of heavy vehicle
training undertaken by registered training organisations and other providers.
Senator Glenn Sterle
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