Formal education and training in the road freight industry consists of heavy vehicle driving and driver operations training delivered by registered training organisations (RTOs), through the vocational education and training (VET) sector or by driving instructors and assessment officers authorised by state road authorities.
The industry has a high regard for practical, high-quality on-the-job training which would give new drivers the time and experience to allow skills to develop. However, the committee received evidence that the industry lacks confidence in the skills of new drivers and that many transport operators struggle to deliver the shortfall in skills training. The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) submitted that ‘[t]he industry continues to suffer from low levels of education and training which are undermining safety and productivity’.
The committee was told that despite the work over many years to develop national competency requirements for heavy vehicle drivers, new drivers are still being 'churned' out of driving schools 'in as little as half a day'. According to the Australian Driver Trainers Association (ADTA), career development in the industry amounted to 'licence tenure', where the only requirement is to hold a licence for a prescribed period of time without a requirement that drivers develop skills, experience or knowledge to operate vehicles safely and competently.
Furthermore, driver shortages and poor progress in securing a younger and more diverse driver base was a threat to the sustainability of the industry.
This chapter considers reviews of and progress on the national framework for driver training, the views of stakeholders on attracting new entrants to the industry and the development of career pathways to support the growth of the industry into the future. The chapter also considers the TWU’s call for an industry-wide approach to training, with an emphasis on safety induction training through a mechanism similar to the Transport Education Audit Compliance Health Organisation’s (TEACHO) ‘BlueCard’ approach.
Policy and qualification development organisations
The bodies responsible for policy and the development of national training qualifications in the transport and logistics industry are described below:
Skills National Cabinet Reform Committee that replaced the former Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Industry and Skills Council.
Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC): Established by the COAG Industry and Skills Council in 2015 to provide advice to COAG on the implementation of national VET policies. Its role is to recommend training packages for implementation in the VET system and ensure that industry perspectives inform national training on transport and logistics.
Transport and Logistics Industry Reference Committee (TLIRC): Acts as a link between the transport and logistics industry and the AISC. Comprised of industry representatives and experts, the TLIRC identifies the skills required by the industry and ensures that the Transport and Logistics Training Package is appropriate to the needs of the industry.
Australian Industry Standards (AIS): A not-for-profit skills service organisation that supports the TLIRC by providing research and analysis and assisting in the development of qualification standards.
Transport Education Audit Compliance Health Organisation (TEACHO): is a not for profit company established by the TWU in partnership with employers and industry experts. TEACHO aims to improve research, training and compliance support to transport workers in Australia. A strategic priority of TEACHO is its Bluecard Skills Training Passport System (Bluecard).
National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework
The National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework (the framework) establishes the minimum competency standards for heavy vehicle drivers and trainers. Developed by the Standing Committee on Transport of the Australian Transport Council and endorsed in 2011, the framework has been implemented for heavy vehicle drivers' licences in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The framework was 'designed to set a standard where there would be appropriate progression between those within the heavy-vehicle hierarchy so that people would be trained and graduate from light-rigid to heavy-rigid and through to multi-combinations at various levels'.
Queensland has partially implemented the framework with driver training for the Multi Combination (MC) class of licence being offered by RTOs:
Currently in QLD the regulator (TMR) conduct their own driver testing up to Class HC with MC licenses offered by RTO’s that hold a deed with TMR. The TMR driving test is between 60 and 90 minutes in duration with a testing officer who may or may not have any truck driving experience. The only requirement is that they hold a license for 1 year.
The Australian Driver Training Association (ADTA)—the peak body representing some 1200 driver educators in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory—submitted in late 2019 that the national framework 'has been agreed by all state regulators as the way forward'. However, it noted that the approach to licensing continued to vary within and among jurisdictions due in large part to geographical constraints in having to travel to undertake courses.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has indicated that it supports a single national heavy vehicle driver licensing framework.
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry into aspects of road safety in Australia
In October 2017, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee reported on heavy vehicle training as part of its inquiry into aspects of road safety in Australia. It found that there was inconsistency among state and territory jurisdictions in their application of the framework and in the qualifications and practical experience requirements for instructors and assessors. The standard required to pass heavy vehicle driving assessments was also found to be low and insufficiently focused on safety.
The committee recommended that the COAG Transport and Infrastructure Council work to ensure all jurisdictions adopt the framework and that the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) take a more active role in monitoring the delivery of heavy vehicle training by RTO and other providers.
Austroads review of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework
In 2018, Austroads, a collective of the Australian and New Zealand government transport agencies, released the first part of a three-phase review of the framework. The review found that heavy vehicle licensing varied between jurisdictions and the standard of training and assessment was 'often inadequate with offerings of less than a day to obtain a heavy vehicle licence'. The review recommended that licence progression based on time be replaced with skill development and the inclusion of minimum supervised driving hours.
Regarding the governance of training programs, the review found that VET sector oversight was 'insufficient to ensure the quality and integrity of outsourced licensing services' and recommended that transport regulators take a more active role in 'setting and monitoring standards'. However, it also recommended that the training continue to be delivered through VET providers.
In September 2019, Austroads announced the completion of phase 2 of its review which had identified a number of further measures. These included strengthening the licence to drive units of competency particularly in the areas of safe vehicle operating practice, hazard awareness, vehicle systems and loading; developing standardised training and assessment materials; and considering minimum supervised hours of experience as part of heavy vehicle licensing.
Phase 3 of the review, which commenced in May 2020 and will run until August 2022, aims to develop 'an exemplar licensing framework for national implementation which will establish, for each class of heavy vehicle licence, the standard of safe driving and vehicle management skills'. These will be submitted to the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers' Meetings for endorsement in late 2022.
Heavy vehicle licence training
Heavy vehicle licence classes for rigid vehicles are Light Rigid (LR), Medium Rigid (MR) and Heavy Rigid (HR). The licence classes for articulated or combination vehicles are Heavy Combination (HC) and Multi Combination (MC).
The Austroads review of the framework noted that licence holders are generally expected to progress from lower to higher vehicle classes, according to nationally agreed minimum time periods within which to progress, although exceptions can be granted in some jurisdictions.
To obtain a heavy vehicle licence, candidates are assessed on their knowledge and competency to drive according to criteria under the framework (see figure 5.1 below).
Figure 5.1: Criteria for assessing competency under the National Heavy Vehicle Competency Framework
Source: Austroads, Review of the National Heavy Vehicle Competency Framework, March 2018, p. 24.
The Austroads review noted that there are no recommended minimum timeframes in licence to drive units 'below which a person cannot reasonably have obtained sufficient proficiency'. It also reported the results of a survey of driver training providers which indicated that the median duration of training for vehicle licencing courses was '1–4 hours for the off-truck component in both rigid and articulated vehicle classes and 9–16 hours for the behind the wheel component'. However, the review also noted that the claimed hours may be an overstatement and that a 'review of training provider websites backs up the view that there are a number of providers offering courses at considerably less than the indicated 10–20 hours'.
The review concluded that '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'.
Driver operations qualifications
In addition to the licence training unit, there are nationally recognised VET Certificates II, III and IV in Driver Operations which provide a number of units in preparation for roles driving various vehicle classes from courier or taxi driver through to freight driver and articulated fuel tanker drivers.
NatRoad argued that the delivery of these units was inconsistent due to the program design being driven by the particular RTO. It also submitted that when pricing policies, insurers did not distinguish between the qualifications of drivers. So, from the point of view of operators, there was no 'transferable benefit or increased business confidence in employing someone who holds these qualifications'.
Take-up of VET qualifications is low and continues to fall. In its 2020 Transport and Logistics Forecast, AIS reported that of the transport and logistics workforce of truck, taxi and bus drivers, about 'a third of this group (33.1%) hold a VET qualification, but a clear majority (57.1%) hold no qualification at all'.
AIS analysis showed that while the number of truck drivers grew 14 per cent between 2015 and 2018, the number of enrolments in truck driving qualifications fell 40 per cent (see figure 5.2). The Queensland statistics were especially dire:
Certificate III in Driving Operations, which accounted for 81% of all Road Transport qualification enrolments in 2018, has seen a precipitous decline in enrolments in Queensland in particular. The decline represents 82% of the national decline for Certificate III in Driving Operations in the last four years which is almost entirely due to an 86.6% decline in Government funded enrolments in the State, or a difference of 9,514 students.
AIS noted that the decline in enrolments correlated with a decline in government funding for enrolments for road transport qualifications in
2015–18 of around 70 per cent. It further observed that while the Australian Government contributed a 'significant amount to vocational education training, how that money is allocated in [each] jurisdiction is ultimately almost all worked out by state and territory governments'.
Figure 5.2: Truck drivers (enrolments vs labour force), 2015–18
Source: Australian Industry Standards, Submission 37, p. 8.
Mr Peter Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Transport Association, observed that there was a disjunct between the agencies that offered licence training and the training that is offered through AIS and the VET sector. The two sectors, he noted, had different ideals and perspectives and 'don’t want to connect'.
Views on heavy vehicle training
Governance of training programs
For most states and territories, training providers in the VET sector are regulated nationally by the Australian Skills Quality Authority. However, VET in Victoria is regulated by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority and in Western Australia by the Western Australian Training Accreditation Council.
The ADTA raised concerns about the governance of training programs. In its submission, the ADTA referred to the expectation of state regulators that ASQA would monitor the VET sector. It stated that by working outside the recordkeeping requirements of the VET system, 'questionable RTO’s continue to operate without any external auditing or guidance':
Whilst only RTO’s can get delivery agreements, there is no requirement that a unit of competency must be issued. This means that ASQA has no Authority whatsoever in monitoring or auditing license outcomes. Essentially license assessments sit in a bizarre no mans land.
ADTA argued that the heavy vehicle training scheme be either 'fully immersed into, or fully removed from, the VET space'. It further contended that Transport for NSW had 'set such low benchmarks in terms of the training we deliver' that it should vacate the field and Austroads or another organisation be allowed to run training.
Training of trainers
There are two VET qualifications for heavy vehicle driving instructors. The TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is the required qualification for all trainers and assessors delivering nationally recognised training, regardless of industry.
The RTO standards do not require heavy vehicle driving instructors to hold the driver instructor qualification, TLI41316 Certificate IV in Transport Logistics (Road Transport—Heavy Vehicle Driving Instruction). However, the 'trainer/assessor must have vocational competencies at least to the level of the course being delivered'.
ADTA noted that while NSW had brought its training into the VET sector under RTOs in 2013, there were still questions over the adequacy of qualifications of trainers:
It is worrying that in NSW driving tests are also conducted by Service NSW using staff that simply must "hold" that class of license. We have seen numerous examples of staff being upgraded to a class HR license and two weeks later testing in that class having achieved absolutely no on-road truck driving experience other than the process of passing their own test.
Representatives of TRANZnet, an organisation representing trainers and assessors, raised the 'chronic shortage' of properly qualified trainers and assessors in the Northern Territory. This had resulted in a decision to close the driver trainer organisation, Northern Australia Training and Assessment. TRANZnet Vice-President, Ms Annette Bould, told the committee that obtaining the Certificate IV qualifications was time consuming and expensive and the pay rates for trainers were not competitive with those earned by experienced drivers. There was also no truly national system of transferable qualifications, making recruitment from interstate difficult. In TRANZnet's view, NT Motor Vehicle Registry accredited trainers lacked industry experience and held 'piecemeal' qualifications.
Testing and training standards
The Victorian Transport Association spoke for many industry participants when it expressed frustration at 'the inability of the statutory regimes to understand what is required by an individual to become a professional driver in our industry'.
A constant refrain heard by the committee from industry participants was that new entrants are not being adequately tested or trained.
Witnesses and submitters time and again maintained that skill levels of licence holders were insufficient from both a safety and job ready perspective, with qualified drivers unable to 'back the trailers against the dock' or adequately drive the class of vehicle for which they are licensed.
Ms Michelle Harwood, Executive Director of the Tasmanian Transport Association, said that the framework did not address the 'wraparound skill set' required by the industry of 'in-depth understanding of vehicle mass, dimension and loading requirements—load restraints, safe loading practices—and people's awareness of fatigue management and their own strategies to manage their safety'.
The committee heard that the road transport sector was 'probably the last bastion of insufficiently regulated work practices in transport' where 'anybody over the age of 21 can apply for a heavy vehicle licence and legally undertake a basic driving course over the weekend … it's about eight hours that you have to do—then get behind the wheel of a commercial 65 tonne B-double freight vehicle'.
The heavy vehicle licensing process was identified by some submitters as a disincentive for new industry entrants, both because of its cost for people from low socioeconomic backgrounds and for small operators and because of the time required to progress through the licences. As Toll Group explained in its submission:
A heavy rigid (HR) licence is possible after two years of holding a car licence. A heavy combination (HC) licence is possible after one year of holding a HR licence. A multicombination (MC) licence is possible after one year of holding a HR or HC licence and undertaking a training course. By the time they’re eligible to be truck drivers it is probable that younger people have already embarked on other career paths.
Furthermore, as NatRoad saw it, this time-based requirement 'delays the natural progression of a young but otherwise highly competent driver in certain [licence] categories'. The National Farmers' Federation emphasised that a competency focused assessment through 'behind-the-wheel training' which shortened the minimum time required to progress through the licence levels would help address labour shortage issues. Mr Peter Anderson from the Victorian Transport Association argued that 'we'll have better people and we'll have career-driven individuals if we get 18-year-olds, which we can't get now'.
NatRoad, in its submission to the committee, pointed to a number of potential shortcomings of the licensing system, notably that although 'there is a time-based requirement for the gaining or upgrading of a heavy vehicle licence, there is no prerequisite to have driven a heavy vehicle prior to that assessment'. NatRoad members further reported that appropriate training standards and barriers to entry of untrained operatives entering the industry are not in place, hindering the industry’s drive towards increased safety objectives and public respect.
ADTA members reported while many trainers and RTOs are committed to providing high quality education, others ran fleets of old technology and delivered training within time periods that were 'grossly insufficient'.
The need for a uniform system of training that is 'transferable across all states' was emphasised. Mr Michael Humphries, director of the ADTA, told the committee that the national standards needed to be based on very prescriptive competencies along the lines of—'[w]e want you to be able to steer the truck well, and here's exactly what we mean by that'. According to the current competencies, Mr Humphries asserted that a driver 'does not need to demonstrate driving at 100 kilometres an hour on a highway or going down a hill and changing gears'.
Mr Mark Mazza of South West Express supported the focus on competencies:
Competency is now the issue. The standard of drivers has fallen to such a level that damage, down time and transiency within the industry is costing untold millions. This cannot continue. All the hard work we have done regarding industry safety through management compliance in the last two decades will soon be undone as a consequence. The system is letting down our industry, other road users and our future driver's.
AIS derided the current time-based licensing progression and stated that the industry had 'called for a competency-based approach as well as supervised driving hours to deliver the best skills to enhance safety outcomes'.
Mr Paul Walsh, Chief Executive Officer of AIS, told the committee that the training framework already contained 'the competencies needed to support a competency-based licensing approach'.
The Transport and Logistics Training Package provides nationally recognised VET qualifications for the transport and logistics industry in a number of areas including freight handling, driving operations, driving instruction for heavy vehicles and warehousing and logistics operations. In its submission, AIS described the purpose and composition of training packages:
Training Packages specify the skills and knowledge required to perform effectively in the workplace through Units of Competency. Training Packages also describe how these units can be packaged into nationally recognised qualifications aligned to the Australian Qualifications Framework and industry recognised Skill Sets.
AIS stated that in order to ensure skills are consistent with new transport technologies, the Transport and Logistics Industry Reference Committee had developed two new units of competency on chain of responsibility and revised existing units of competency and skill sets relating to the safe commercial operation of heavy vehicles. Mr Walsh elaborated that:
… workplace health and safety, accident, emergency, load restraint, fatigue management, chain responsibility—all of those things are already available within the qualification frameworks through competency standards. We've also got new standards, which have been developed in recent times, for the new technologies which are evolving with electronic work diaries, in-vehicle monitoring systems, intelligent transport systems, and changes to the way that we deal with fatigue management and distraction management. Again, competency standards exist within the existing framework.
However, despite existence of the competency standards, Mr Walsh explained that 'not all jurisdictions are using it' and as a result there is no harmonised national heavy vehicle licensing. Furthermore, states controlled the implementation of the licensing and there was not necessarily a strong connection between skills and remuneration. Mr Walsh concluded, 'I guess the thing we want to say is that the framework for skills is available; it's about how it's used, how it's funded and how it's accepted'.
Despite it being one of the most dangerous professions in Australia,
industry-wide compulsory safety induction credentials do not exist for the road transport industry. However other high-risk sectors, such as construction and rail, have implemented such measures (White Card and Rail Induction Safety Card respectively). In order to address this gap, the road transport sector developed a ‘universally recognised and nationally accredited safety training unit’ called ‘Bluecard’, administered by the Transport Education Audit Compliance Health Organisation (TEACHO). Currently Bluecard is not compulsory, which according to the TWU:
…is neither effective nor efficient, resulting in some road transport workers receiving no induction training upon entering the industry, while other workers are provided multiple variants of such inductions unnecessarily.
The benefit of establishing a ‘standardised, universal and compulsory safety induction unit’ is improved accessibility, reduced training costs and a lift in the quality of training across the road transport industry. The TWU called for the establishment of an industry fund (levy) to support broader training and education initiatives.
Attracting new entrants to the industry
In an industry with an aging workforce where 29 per cent of truck drivers are aged over 55, the committee was repeatedly told by submitters that Australia is facing a truck driver shortage due to the high attrition rates among the baby boomer generation, low numbers of new drivers entering the industry and competition from other industries such as mining.
NatRoad drew the committee's attention to a 2016 survey commissioned by Volvo Group Australia which found that 52 per cent of employers reported difficulties attracting the quantity of staff they required and 82 per cent reported problems with driver quality. Toll Group pointed to productivity losses from trucks in its fleet grounded due to a lack of available labour. The Northern Territory Road Transport Association and Western Roads Federation identified the shortage of suitably qualified drivers and other staff as the 'single dominant issue for WA and NT transport companies'.
AIS noted that the industry was projected to have 7.5 per cent employment growth up to 2026. By contrast, Monash University estimated that 'the rate of recruitment will need to increase by 150% in order to account for the simultaneous pressures of increased road freight service demand and the loss of retiring drivers'.
Addressing the lack of young people and need for more diverse entrants in the industry was 'a matter of urgency' among stakeholders.
Submitters indicated that a significant handicap for the industry was that it was widely regarded as 'low skilled and therefore unattractive to young people wishing to build a career'. Other perceived deterrents were that the industry was high-risk, with the prospect of job losses due to automation and that drivers had to endure long hours, poor on-road conditions and facilities and adverse impacts on their families and lifestyles.
In its appearance before the committee, the Queensland Trucking Association put forward a number of reasons as to why entering the industry as a diver would be beneficial:
… there are a lot of other opportunities within the industry and a whole variety of different roles. Even if you go right back to career counselling in schools, I think you'd go through a fair few schools to find a career counsellor who'd mention road freight… there are plenty of truck drivers who become business owners. In fact, the great majority of trucking businesses would be owned and operated by people who originally started off as a truck driver. So it is a great opportunity to get a start and grow into a successful business, and there's a whole raft of other opportunities in logistics—scheduling, allocating, HR.
According to NatRoad, the road transport industry offers a multitude of roles for industry participants from 'yard hand and driver to compliance officer and general manager'. However, these pathways are both under-developed and poorly understood. NatRoad submitted that career pathways could provide:
… a series of connected education and training strategies and support services that enable individuals to secure industry relevant certification and obtain employment within an occupational area and to advance to higher levels of future education and employment in that area.
Effective career pathways, in NatRoad's view, should include a specific focus on the needs of the workforce, a curriculum that makes 'work a central context for learning and work readiness skills', credit for prior learning, career advancement for education and employment in the industry, financial support for participants and design and oversight 'through a collaborative partnership between government, industry representatives, employers, education providers, and other industry stakeholders'.
A number of industry stakeholders argued that a reason the industry did not appear to be an attractive career option for new entrants was the lack of appreciation or recognition of drivers' experience and qualifications. Mr Peter Biagini, branch secretary of the Queensland Transport Workers' Union, pointed to the advanced skills and responsibilities needed to cart fuel and dangerous goods, noting 'we've got to acknowledge these skills to a stage where a professional truck driver is seen as having a profession equal to a tradesperson'.
Mr Biagini identified the lack of a link between pay and skills as a deterrent to young people, noting, 'You should be recognised every time you learn something; you should get certain modules for it and keep adding to that.' The Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation indicated that many workers 'remain at the same level of recognition and remuneration after decades of hard work and therefore do not gain the elevation and rewards that are often seen in other industries'.
Owner operator Mr Chris Roe argued that qualifications were the foundation to attracting quality people into the industry and that when they have that, they 'can then expect to be paid, remunerated and valued for the qualification that they've got'.
A further difficulty with employing and training young drivers identified by transport company South West Express was obtaining affordable insurance:
Insurance providers put onerous financial restrictions on employers who employ people under the age of 25 and or who have less than 2 years' experience. This can be as much as $10,000 on top of an excess of $4000 or more. So, if a transport operator employs an MC driver, who by law is deemed to be competent by virtue of the fact they have the licence. The employer can be hit with a $15000 excess bill if an incident takes place. For many in our industry with tight margins, this is a risk too great to take. So how does the licence holder gain experience?
Mr Walsh told the committee of one transport insurance provider who offered lower premiums for drivers aged under 25 years who had received training to an agreed standard. Mr Graeme Howell, Secretary of the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria, suggested:
As an employer, if you get a young person that has not had two years' experience or is under 25, you've got increased insurance costs, and there should be some way that you can get rewards for industry experience to offset those costs.
The committee was told that forklift driving had long been a career entry point for mechanics, warehouse workers and truck drivers.
Since changes to the model work health and safety regulations, 'high risk work' including forklift driving, can only be performed by holders of a high risk licence who are over 18 years of age. Forklift and other high risk work licences are issued by state or territory work health and safety regulators.
Stakeholders argued that the road transport industry needed the age limit for operating forklifts to be reinstated at 16 years. Ms Sharon Middleton, President of the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), explained that forklift driving provided young people with a wage that attracted them to the industry. Once there, they could begin the career pathway towards heavy vehicles:
… if you can start someone at 16, you can teach them all about load placement—loading trucks with the correct weight on the different axles. You can teach them about load restraint—how to make sure things are tied down as they should be for transport. You can teach them about paperwork—the need for all that to be done correctly. That can lead to that person getting a rigid licence. Because they have done all that time in the warehouse, they know all about how to load and unload their truck. Then they learn all about the road rules and managing something bigger on the highway. From there, they can go to semi. From semi they can then go up to MC, which is the B-double and road train work.
Mr Steven Shearer, Executive Officer with SARTA and board member with the South Australian Training and Skills Commission, described steps being taken in South Australia to enable the safe use of forklifts by junior staff:
The model we have developed here with the minister—and we're working through the South Australia government—is a traineeship with a formal contract of training. That requires particular levels of supervision and training. So as not to offend the national work health and safety regime, we don't provide a national forklift licence; we'll provide a restricted licence … the use of that licence would be restricted to [a] depot. Properly managed and supervised, our current estimate is that it will open up some 800 jobs for 16- to 18-year-olds in this state.
SARTA argued that the South Australian model could be applied more broadly nationally.
Women in the industry
The committee was told of some of the challenges facing women entering and working in the road transport industry and also initiatives to support women that are already in place.
Toll Group submitted that women were deterred from driving trucks by 'a lack of facilities in rest areas (especially toilets), security concerns, shift work, long working days and/or family responsibilities'. It also added that these issues 'have clearly not been addressed in any meaningful way over the last ten years'. Mr John Berger, branch secretary of the Victoria/Tasmania Transport Workers' Union, indicated that similar issues were faced by women in the bus industry despite them being employed in significant numbers.
Ms Heather Jones told the committee about the establishment of Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls in 2014 by a group of women who were 'concerned about women not getting an opportunity to join the industry'. The venture, which aims to provides professional development opportunities and career pathways for newly licensed truck drivers, demonstrated that there was demand for the company's services:
If you are a young man or a male with no experience, the chances of you getting a job in the industry are very limited. If you're a female with no experience then you've got no hope of getting a job in the industry. When we started Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls we did one ABC radio interview about what we were going to do, and within six months we had 500 drivers all over Australia on our waiting list.
Ms Jacquelene Brotherton, Chair of Transport Women Australia, stated that to attract women, there needed to be a clear pathway into the industry. She described some of the training Transport Women Australia had been involved in including a four to six week mentoring and female-only driving program in association with Wodonga TAFE and a number of transport companies. After completing the training, participants that pass the HR licence test are employed by the companies they trained with. Transport Women Australia also offers industry-sponsored scholarships in a broad range of transport industry roles including engineering and operations.
Ms Brotherton also canvassed the promotional work of Transport Women Australia, including taking trucks to Girl Guides, and emphasised that the industry needed to be represented at career forums. She reported on the difficulty in maintaining funding for promotional and training programs and suggested that this was an area in which government could assist.
The committee heard evidence that a stronger focus on practical, hands-on experience was an essential adjunct to heavy vehicle formal qualifications. The sections below discuss industry training already in operation and possible models for including formalised industry training in the form of an apprenticeship, traineeship or mentoring scheme.
Mentoring and in-house training
Industry participants expressed strong support for the value of one-on-one driver training, along the lines of the more informal training with family members or mentoring from experienced drivers that traditionally constituted industry training in the past.
Dr Daryll Hull, Managing Director of the Transport Logistics Centre, suggested that particularly in regional areas, where it was more difficult to access formal training programs, the government could fund experienced drivers who could 'share knowledge, perhaps even on a structured basis for the last couple of years before they retire'.
As Mr David Cullen of the Queensland Transport Workers' Union expressed it, industry entrants should have 'a tour of experience to get through'.
The committee was told that there are only a few companies—usually large corporates—that employ driver trainers. For other small companies, the cost was simply too great to pay two people to drive when one of them is training. In Western Australia, companies employing driver trainers were estimated to 'only account for 0.1% of the 7,000 registered transport companies in WA'.
Mr Rodney McIntosh from O'Brien Transport reported that his company trained young people out of school by starting them on small trucks that they could drive with a car licence and then paid them to upgrade their licence to heavy rigid trucks. Mr Scott Finemore reported that Ron Finemore Transport used a buddy system where new people are assigned to a driver for a week and then progressed to harder runs.
However some witnesses spoke of a reluctance for smaller companies to train because 'you put the effort into training them, and then somebody comes along and poaches them'.
Mr Chris Roe of Roe's Holdings suggested that a scheme be implemented where companies were 'protected by some sort of an indenture … where they could somehow or other retain that employee for a period where they could regain their investment in him or her'.
Mr Jan de Bruyn, Chairman of the Tasmanian Transport Association, remarked that 'responsible operators that actually put people through the training and get them their licences … should be given some funding for the work that they've done'.
Mr Walsh from AIS concluded that training was 'not just on government but on industry as well—to co-invest, to make sure that both are contributing to the development and professionalisation, because it is industry that is calling out for professional drivers'.
Inquiry participants focused on the possibility of introducing apprenticeships or traineeship to link school leavers to employment in the road transport industry.
In its Transport and Logistics Skills Forecast for 2020, AIS stated that there were 'no traditional apprenticeships in the Transport and Logistics’ industry nationally'.
Stakeholders emphasised that securing the interest of young people in the period immediately after they left school and before they entered other fields was crucial.
The Victorian Transport Association noted that while there were formal educational qualifications available in the form of the VET Certificates III and IV in Driving Operations, these courses did not engage with the 'coal face' of the industry, including 'the fundamental workings of running a truck' and the 'manual, technical and emotional requirements to manage a heavy vehicle on our roads today'.
Apprenticeships offered to students with years 10 to 12 qualifications could provide a pathway, linking training, licensing and experience with employment.
Structure of apprenticeships
Submitters and witnesses provided a number of models on how an apprenticeship or trainee scheme might operate. Mr Laurie D'Apice, chairman of AIS, suggested a one or two-year program, part driving and part warehouse-based.
Mr Campbell Dumesny, Chief Executive Officer of the Western Roads Federation, proposed a three-year traineeship where trainees were employed by courier and warehousing companies for the first few years, 'driving a forklift and starting with the basic vehicles'. They would then progress to the next licence level (HR) where they could be employed driving concrete trucks, finally reaching a heavy combination level.
To Ms Roxanne Mysko of United Transport Group, an apprenticeship should be a highly structured three- to four-year program:
It would be modelled on what we already have in ASQA as well as other qualifications—not shortcutting … It would be four years of working inside road restraint—how to look after a vehicle, basic maintenance of a vehicle—and doing some work inside a workshop. They do need to have some hands-on then, especially long-distance. They need to understand the dangers of changing a tyre. And then they could progress through a heavy rigid through to a HC through to an MC. They should be put in for X amount of time with another experienced operator so they get to sit there and watch. That's how they learn.
The combination of VET and hands-on industry training was also advocated by the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation and Ms Jones, who stated:
I don't know about an apprenticeship. I'd prefer a traineeship or a cadetship, perhaps, but with the same training package delivered to every single company so that that can be delivered through a TAFE system.
A business-driven model for entry-level skills development was favoured by Mr John Mitchell over an apprenticeship or training delivered by RTOs. He maintained, 'if there was a business that could supply or build people into great truck drivers, and wanted to do that, they should be encouraged to do that'.
NatRoad informed the committee that in January 2019 it had submitted a proposal for an apprenticeship training model for heavy vehicle operators to the Transport and Logistics Industry Reference Committee. The proposal included a 'progressive, experience-based grounding in the industry' for school leavers that would result in participants gaining a combination heavy vehicle licence at around 20 years of age and a new VET qualification, the Certificate III in Professional Driving. The scheme was designed to build capability while retaining flexibility:
The apprenticeship program is designed to introduce standardised industry-led training without being employer or stream specific. It would also ensure that drivers are more prepared to meet and accommodate the changes occurring in the road transport industry with skills that are transferable to other roles within the transport and logistics sector, thereby offering drivers a more certain career path.
Mrs Jan Cooper stated that the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Western Australia was 'ambivalent about whether it should be an apprenticeship or a traineeship or some other mechanism', but suggested financial support and accommodation subsidies for rural young people.
The committee heard that companies with in-house training programs take the financial cost of doing so on themselves. Ms Jones told the committee about the industry training program that Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls had instituted for newly licensed drivers since 2010. She explained that the company offered one-on-one driver training with senior driver-trainers while performing jobs for clients, but that the training received no external funding:
Since 2016, we've trained 62 drivers. Since 2005, with our previous training, we've had 200 drivers go through our training system. We do not get paid for this. We do not get any funding for this. This is all funded by our own family business. It's a real live transport company. We put those funds back into these drivers and then place them out with industry.
Ms Jones explained that the company needed funding for accommodation for the trainees due to high rents in its base in Karratha, Western Australia. Furthermore, she estimated it took 160 hours to train a driver and $5000 per person to recover costs.
The TWU emphasised the need for effective resourcing of industry-wide training and proposed the establishment of an industry levy 'which would be borne by all employers and users of transport services through the supply chain'. It submitted that:
This levy would be administered in a tripartite manner by the government, employers and the union to ensure that resources are directed towards auditing, training, safety, compliance and accountability in the transport industry.
Mr Dumesny pointed to a need for government support for industry traineeships:
… we've got a proposal from one company who is prepared to employ 25 people a year as apprentices over three years, So, over a five-year period, they will train 125 people. They will pay 80 per cent of their wages and costs throughout the training. They are looking for a 20 per cent offset from the government. That's fair, but we're struggling to push that through.
Transport operator Mr Mazza suggested that the federal and state governments and industry each pay a third of the cost for an apprenticeship scheme, with a compulsory levy on licensing.
NatRoad also supported combined government and industry funding, and signalled its willingness to work with the federal department of education to identify available funding for the development of career pathways.
State industry initiatives
The committee was informed of initiatives in education and training being undertaken by industry organisations in conjunction with state governments.
Representatives from SARTA informed the committee of a heavy vehicle simulator to be delivered in partnership with the South Australian Government which would enable heavy vehicle drivers to train to safely navigate the South Eastern Freeway descent and other high risk routes. SARTA is also looking at simulations on anti-rollover training, particularly for the livestock industry, and skills training such as reversing and negotiating high volume urban traffic. An NHVR heavy vehicle safety grant program contributed to the cost of the technology.
The Western Roads Federation reported on its collaboration with the Transport Workers' Union and Western Australian Government to establish a driving academy to improve pathways to employment in Western Australia. The academy would be modelled on the Victorian Transport Association's Driver Delivery program, a fully subsidised eight-day program which provides 'individually tailored training, mentoring, and behind-the-wheel driving experience to new drivers of heavy vehicles'.
Mr Peter Anderson explained the Driver Delivery program in more detail:
There are 152 units, which are measurable with KPIs that we could deliver to the education industry en masse tomorrow. We have a 274-page instructor's manual. That's how that's how in-depth we've gone into this. We've delivered 160 drivers to companies in Australia, and the drivers are now job ready from the time they are trained.
Advanced driver skills
The committee was informed that in addition to training for new industry entrants there was a need for regular reassessment, ongoing training and advanced driver skills. Dr Hull suggested that drivers should undergo mandatory driver refresh programs 'preferably annually but at least every five years'.
Upskilling was required to prepare drivers for increased automation in the industry. The Australian Logistics Council pointed out that 'the increasing influence of technology in the operation of heavy vehicles will demand a broader range of skills than may have previously been applicable in the industry'.