(Transporter E-News, Issue 8, 8/3/19)
The motorised road transport industry has been around for about 110 years or so and has adapted too many disruptions over those years. While there is a lot of focus on autonomous vehicles and other high potential technology, what is more often not acknowledged in our community, is the high level of sophistication in our supply chains that mobilise freight in all its forms from origin to the end user.
The road transport industry is clever, sophisticated and a vital ingredient to a world class economy. Truck drivers are the highly valuable link in the supply chain. To ensure the future of this industry, attracting young people to a driving career is critical.
There are many reforms necessary to develop a more formal career pathway for drivers and through the VET 4 T&L program we support these ongoing reforms and operations of the vocational education and training system across the road transport, passenger transport, logistics, rail, aviation and maritime sectors. The industry is currently experiencing survey fatigue with an overwhelming amount of government departments and consultancy companies requesting feedback on the same themes - skills shortages, future skills needs and opinions on current training programs. What the industry really needs, is action to be taken to solve the issues that have been trending for many years now, with the key issue being – where do we find truck drivers?
With the announcement late last year of a federal review of the VET system in Australia, it is an opportune time to lobby for reforms of the vocational and education system that reflect industry demand driven needs and frameworks that are ‘fit for purpose’ for industry.
We acknowledge the work our colleagues in the VTA are doing to move Victoria’s interest towards competency based training. However, we are still inhibited by artificial age barrier and insurance limitations to better attract young people to a road transport driving career. The inhibiting factor to finding more drivers is not only about the age based licencing pathway, but how newly licenced drivers get actual on-road experience.
Just days ago, a recent article that came out of the US sparked my interest, on the introduction of companion, bipartisan bills of the US Congress and Senate that will help address their nation’s growing shortage of truck drivers. (link)
It shows how serious their lawmakers are about addressing the shortage with common-sense solutions. These bills enjoy support of both sides of politics, with a growing understanding across the country that the impact of this issue reaches far beyond just trucking and commercial vehicles. It is a strain on the entire supply chain, from the manufacturers and producers on down to retail and the end consumer, who will see higher prices in the stores.
The American Trucking Association (ATA) is a member of the DRIVE Safe Act Coalition, co-led by ATA and the International Foodservice Distributors of America, and includes the National Association of Manufacturers, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders of America and more than 40 other national trade associations and companies.
See also: DRIVE Safe myth v. fact
The DRIVE Safe Act will allow heavy vehicle drivers who are already permitted to drive at 18 years of age, the opportunity to participate in a rigorous apprenticeship program designed to help them master interstate driving, while also promoting enhanced safety training for emerging members of the workforce.
The DRIVE Safe Act will help train younger drivers far and above current standards. Under the legislation, once a driver has met the requirements to obtain their licence, they would begin a two-step program of additional training that includes a number of performance benchmarks each candidate must demonstrate competency in. In addition, they would be required to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab with them. All trucks used for training in the program must be equipped with NTSB-endorsed safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing video event capture and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour.
Significantly, all of these post-licence L training, safety, and technology standards under the DRIVE Safe Act would be required on top of all the pre-licence training benchmarks that new drivers will be required to satisfy when the Entry Level Driver Training Rule goes in to effect in February 2020, which includes 59 different topics of knowledge and behind-the-wheel training for Class A licence applicants.
As an industry, road safety is always on our minds. Undoubtedly, this is a well-considered initiative being adopted in the USA and warrants serious consideration by our governments. Our future depends on renewal and broadening the labour market with reforms such as this to benefit both road transport and the broader economy.
Harness our experience and we can deliver a step change to improve safety and the viability of the road transport industry.
Chief Executive Officer