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National approach essential to battling driver shortage: NTI

A national solution to the driver shortage is required according to National Transport Insurance (NTI) as it calls for collaboration between industry bodies to combat the issue before it reaches crisis point.

Speaking of behalf of the truck insurer, Mike Edmonds, NTI General Manager Commercial said reducing barriers to entry in the industry had been a primary focus for his company.

He said it would continue its annual contributions as it sought to find a solution to issues such as driver shortage and improvements in safety.

“The industry continues to call for national solutions to challenges. Currently there are a number of bodies working on this particular challenge, and NTI is calling on all parties to work together to achieve a national solution,” said Edmonds.

“NTI made a change around four years ago in consultation with industry representatives, to overhaul our driver acceptance criteria and change the snapshot of what the workforce looks like. The agreed approach reflects the need for appropriate experience and training to ensure the safety of all road users; industry driven, industry approved.”

“Our goal since then has been to reflect Australia’s licencing system which supports graduated pathways for drivers, and to align driver experience with vehicle combinations,” he said.

Governments, according to Geoff Crouch, Australian Trucking Association Chair, were needed to upgrade truck driver licensing to help match the commitments of the industry as a whole.

“A recent review of the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework found that the standard of training and assessment was inadequate. It pointed out, for example, that the existing Heavy Rigid licensing unit did not cover key safety skills such as driving down steep descents and avoiding skids,” he said.

“Governments need to act rapidly to improve truck driver licensing. This would improve safety and make truck driving more attractive as a skilled, safe occupation.”

The NTI, it said in a statement, worked with business owners and operators on a case-by-case basis to encourage the next generation of operators to come to the party in agreeing on future pathways to competency.

“The challenges that young drivers face generally apply to inexperienced drivers of all ages. Our work in this space has seen NTI overhaul our driver acceptance criteria to attract not only young talent, but more talent,” said Edmonds.
“Freight movement is becoming more and more complex, so it’s also important to support continual driver education and skills development. That’s what keeps operators progressing through vehicle configurations and specialised freight movement,” he added.

“Our priority is first and foremost based on safety outcomes for all road users. Our data tells us that inappropriate speed, driver error and fatigue remain the largest contributing factors in incidents involving heavy vehicles for all drivers – irrespective of age.”

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