Prime Mover Magazine

Austroads pursues improvements to heavy vehicle licensing and safety

Peak organisation of Australasian road transport and traffic agencies, Austroads, is reviewing the national framework for heavy vehicle driver competency with specific reference to licensing.

The Standing Committee on Transport, in 2011, endorsed the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework. This framework, in conjunction with the National Heavy Vehicle Assessment Guide, provides for minimum competencies and assessment to underpin heavy vehicle licensing. The framework and assessment guide have been implemented, in various forms, in most Australian states and territories.

In 2017, Ministers requested Austroads undertake a review of the framework. This review was commissioned as part of normal regulatory review practice and also in response to coroners’ findings as well as the recommendations and deliberations of the Senate Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport: Aspects of road safety. This review culminated in the public release of Austroads report AP-R564-18 Review of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework. The report made a number of recommendations for strengthening the oversight of outsourced heavy vehicle licence training delivery as well as content and coverage of the Licence to Drive competency units.

In response to the findings and recommendations of AP-R564-18, the deliberations of the Senate Committee and industry feedback, Austroads has continued its investigation and program of work in pursuit of improvements to heavy vehicle licensing and safety.

Most recently Austroads has commissioned a project to: review the framework overall taking into account international practice and adult learning and human factors principles; review and update the Licence to Drive units which underpin the framework; review the current heavy vehicle progression structure, compare it to other structures and develop options.

This work is nearing completion and has identified some key findings that warrant further consideration including:

  • Strengthening the Licence to Drive units of competency and assessment particularly in areas of: safe vehicle operating practice with a focus on the development of cognitive skills such as hazard awareness and response; driving under and responding to a broad range of road conditions; vehicle systems; and loading.
  • Development of standardised training and assessment material to support the delivery of Licence to Drive units, including potential development of computer based training modules to support skill development and assessment in safe vehicle operating practice.
  • Consideration of minimum supervised hours of experience as part of heavy vehicle licensing. This is based on research findings which point to the positive increases in technical driving skill which flow from experience. Best practice overseas training programs also point to the importance of experience as part of learning.
  • Further investigation, with potential trials, of alternatives to the current progressive heavy vehicle licensing arrangements, noting the importance of maintaining a focus on road safety and supporting evidence based decision making in any change to licensing arrangements.
  • Examination of currently existing programs and processes. A review of these programs and the safety record of participants would be expected to inform discussion on any potential alternatives to the current heavy vehicle licensing progression.

Austroads will reportedly consider the project findings and is expected to develop a program of work which will be progressed during 2019/20. Industry consultation will continue to be a key part of the progression of the framework review.

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