Calls for higher training standards as inexperienced truck drivers wreak havoc on roads

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Photo: SafetyCulture Library

The Australian Drivers Association has raised the alarm over the high number of fatal truck incidents occurring on Australian roads and is now calling on the NSW transport department to review the driver training program with a view to improving the standards of teaching.

In a letter written to Roads and Maritime Services last month, the peak body for driver trainers lists a number of complaints about the driver training program in NSW.

In its letter, the Australian Drivers Association cites “corruption, substandard testing and licensing, and the gap between what we teach and the required skills widening“ as some of the challenges facing driving schools in NSW. The drivers’ association also says training courses in some schools do last for only six hours.

“These assessors have built their businesses around delivery of these grubby short courses where the level of education and outcome are subpar,” the letter said.

“If the RMS doesn’t act swiftly, we will own the cause of the next M5 blockage or the next dog trailer rollover on the Cahill Expressway,” the body said.

“The potential for loss of life and serious injury is very real.”

Saying Australia’s training standards were not on par with those of other countries, Roads and Maritime Services general manager Mick Humphries, noted that drivers in the US are required to undertake a three-week course that includes units on driving hours, log book, map reading, weights, and compliance. Drivers also need 3000 kilometres of driving time.

“Assessors – prior to 2013 – were required to do a two-week assessor training course in Sydney. Since 2013 there has been no consistent or thorough training program for new assessors,” he said.

“This has been administered by individual registered training organisations and has been very patchy in terms of depth and consistency.”

Roads and Maritime Services spokeswoman said they were discussing with stakeholders to ensure high-level training and assessment.

“As part of the renewal process providers will be engaged to discuss any proposed changes to the scheme,” the spokeswoman said.

A report released by Safe Work Australia in November 2016 showed truck driving is Australia’s deadliest job, with 583 drivers killed in the twelve year-period from 2003 and 2015. More than 2500 people have been killed in truck crashes in the 10 years to 2014.

A Fairfax media investigation last Sunday shows truck-related fatalities have been on an upward trend since the 2013 Mona Vale tanker incident.  The incident sparked changes to transport rules, with road safety authorities stepping up their patrols of the trucking industry.

Below are some of the causes of truck accidents

  • Driver Error is the most common cause of truck-related incidents. Driver error includes over speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and fatigued driving among others.
  • Weather conditions- Reduced visibility due to fog, rain, ice on roads and heavy snowfall are some of the conditions that can cause truck accidents. Truck drivers must be careful when weather conditions are unsafe for driving.
  • Poor driver training-Trucking companies put people in danger when they hire inexperienced drivers. Truck drivers need to undergo thorough training to ensure they make the right decisions when faced with dangerous situations.
  • Poor maintenance- Performing routine inspection and adequately maintaining equipment can go a long way in ensuring the safety of the driver as well as that of other road users.

In an effort to prevent truck-related fatalities, Safe Work Australia has identified a number of key focus areas.

These include:

  • managing public road travel to reduce fatigue and using appropriate speed for the conditions
  • ensuring that vehicles are braked appropriately
  • increasing awareness of pedestrian workers and members of the public
  • ensuring that vehicles and equipment are maintained appropriately and used correctly
  • and ensuring cargo is appropriately restrained particularly during unloading operations.

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