Reform package approved to boost heavy vehicles safety and productivity

The changes are designed to increase the safety and job‑readiness of heavy vehicle drivers

Australia’s transport ministers have agreed to an improved, nationally‑consistent approach to the training and licence progression of heavy vehicle drivers, that improves road safety and productivity.

These changes were approved through the agreement by the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers Meeting (ITMM) to endorse the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework Decision Regulation Impact Statement (Decision RIS).

The changes are designed to increase the safety and job‑readiness of heavy vehicle drivers.

The Decision-RIS proposals include strengthening heavy vehicle driver skills and knowledge through redesigned learning and assessment requirements specific to each licence class, and requiring minimum course lengths and minimum behind-the-wheel time.

It will also allow the deliverance of some training and assessment online to allow licence applicants flexibility to undertake the training when and where it best suits them and reduce costs.

Another proposal will introduce new experience-based licence-progression pathways to allow drivers to gain higher licence classes more rapidly.

For each licence upgrade, drivers would be able to choose a different pathway option: tenure, driving experience, or completion of a supervision program.

Once the pathways are in place, drivers will be able to upgrade from a medium rigid licence to a multi-combination licence in as little as six months, instead of a minimum of two years under current arrangements.

Risk mitigation strategies will be put into place to ensure this rapid progression can be undertaken.

Some of the strategies include requiring driving experience, offering faster progression to those who have been mentored, and placing minimum training times.

Austroads chief executive Geoff Allan says support from the minsters and agencies has been greatly welcomed.

“Major national reform is always challenging. This process, and the road safety and productivity benefits it will deliver, demonstrate Australia’s cooperative federalism at work,” Allan says.

“Ministers have been considering a range of options to improve the safety of trucks and buses, and we have appreciated working with them and their departments.

“Recent major incidents, such as the tragic NSW Hunter Valley bus crash, have highlighted the need for significant change, with the NSW Bus Safety Task Force looking to review bus driver training, competency, and skill levels in their future reports.

“The changes will facilitate the delivery of harmonised heavy vehicle training and assessment, strengthening driver competencies and improving licensing policy to fast-track job readiness.

Austroads will work with each state and territory government and the different industries to develop a coordinated plan to deliver the anticipated safety and productivity benefits of the reform.

“We will be actively engaging with the driver training and heavy vehicle industries, providing information as well as opportunities for input into on-the-ground delivery elements,” Allan says,

“National project scoping and resolution of policy and related issues will be undertaken in stages with Australia’s transport ministers kept up to date on both national and jurisdictional progress.

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