Do we need to train Truck Drivers to drive along specific roads? That is the question now facing the industry, based on the South Australian Coroner report in two fatal truck crashes that recommended:
“all truck drivers in South Australia and interstate be given specific training on using the down track of the South Eastern Freeway.”
The Coroners recommendations need to be respected, but if extrapolated nationally, then does this mean that all drivers need to be trained in how to:
- drive down Cunningham Gap into Brisbane, or the
- drive over the hills on the Hume highway near Tarcutta
- Or even through the Burnley tunnel in Melbourne?
Underlying Issue is Simply Poor Training
We have long been vocal critics of the standard of truck driver training. The Rigs are getting bigger, more complex yet perceived to be simpler to drive – but what about control?
In the last twelve months over 200 people have died in accidents involving Heavy Vehicles.
Quality training organisations such as DECA or WARTA have long been undercut by organisations who offer quicker, cheaper courses.
Anecdotally we are all aware of Organisations that teach the student to pass the driving test!
That does NOT mean they are a Truck Driver, they may hold a license but do they know how to truly drive and control a fully loaded rig that may weigh over 50 tonnes.
Additionally do they know how to:
- Properly restrain the load?
- Manage and administer fatigue, yes they may know how to fill in a log book but?
- Climb up and down a truck and trailer combination in accordance with OHS rules?
- Control a truck whose brakes are failing or control it during steep descents?
- Identify problems with the trucks engine or brakes (including the trailers), with the trailer couplings etc, or even how to do a simple pre-start check?
The assumption appears to be that the Trucking Companies will train them in these aspects. However as our audits have revealed, most Trucking Companies just accept they have a licence, issue them a million dollar rig and load to drive and away they go.
To their credit, companies like Linfox have a comprehensive internal driver training system, but they are in the minority.
What to Do?
The courses for student truck drivers should be expanded and focus on demonstrating the full skills required to be a Truck Driver, not a Steering Wheel attendant.
To do that – the industry needs to consolidate the number of authorised training providers and standardise on a course that fully meets its needs.
That may eliminate the demand for specialist training for every geographical area.