Driver short­age fix for state

Big Rigs - - NEWS - Barry Reynolds

THE Vic­to­rian Govern­ment has promised $4 mil­lion for the train­ing of 800 new heavy ve­hi­cle driv­ers if it wins at Novem­ber’s state elec­tion.

Vic­to­rian Pre­mier Daniel An­drews made the an­nounce­ment af­ter concerns were raised about the lack of truck driv­ers to carry out works on huge in­fra­struc­ture pro­grams such as the $6.7 bil­l­lion West Gate Tun­nel project, where a truck is due to leave the Footscray build­ing site ev­ery two min­utes.

The new train­ing pro­gram will be run in con­junc­tion with the Vic­to­rian Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion and oth­ers with a stake in in­dus­try.

VTA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Peter Anderson said the in­dus­try ur­gently needed to find ways to at­tract more peo­ple to the in­dus­try.

“Heavy ve­hi­cle driver train­ing and re­forms to li­cens­ing are is­sues the VTA has been ad­vo­cat­ing strongly on for some time as a fur­ther mech­a­nism for at­tract­ing new peo­ple to the in­dus­try and ad­dress­ing the short­age of skills and driv­ers that are hold­ing many op­er­a­tors back,” Mr Anderson said.

“In part­ner­ship with the Vic­to­rian Govern­ment, the VTA has pro­vided in­ten­sive train­ing for well over 60 new driv­ers through our Driver Delivery pro­gram, which has also been in­stru­men­tal in putting these driv­ers in jobs in trans­port.”

Ear­lier, the Vic­to­rian Min­is­ter for Roads, Luke Don­nel­lan, had said the huge pro­gram of sate projects was putting pres­sure on re­sources and sup­pli­ers.

“That’s why we’re in­vest­ing in driver train­ing and con­duct­ing a ma­jor re­view that will look at how we can at­tract more young peo­ple into the truck­ing in­dus­try,” Mr Don­nel­lan said.

The TWU (Vic/Tas branch) has also wel­comed the prom­ise of a new train­ing scheme.

“The TWU has al­ways pushed for and sup­ported mea­sures that im­prove the skills and job se­cu­rity of truck driv­ers,” branch sec­re­tary and na­tional vice-pres­i­dent John Berger said.

“The fact they com­monly dou­ble as en­hanced road safety mea­sures is a bonus.

“This An­drews Govern­ment pro­posal is a pos­i­tive step for­ward for the road freight in­dus­try and we look for­ward to pro­vid­ing in­put into this new train­ing ini­tia­tive.”

Vic­to­rian in­fra­struc­ture projects worth more than $30 bil­lion that are un­der way or be­ing planned have faced the risk of a short­age of suit­ably qual­i­fied and trained heavy ve­hi­cle driv­ers needed dur­ing con­struc­tion.

Projects re­quir­ing extensive tun­nelling, such as the Metro Tun­nel, West Gate Tun­nel and the North-East Link, will need at least 600 ex­tra tip-truck driv­ers to move thou­sands of tonnes of ex­ca­vated rub­ble, on top of the hun­dreds of driv­ers re­quired to de­liver con­crete and other build­ing ma­te­ri­als.

About 1.8 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of soil and rock is be­ing ex­ca­vated for the Metro Tun­nel project alone, cre­at­ing an ad­di­tional 438,000 truck move­ments through Melbourne over four years of digging.

The TWU said the Vic­to­rian State Govern­ment’s plan, af­ter in­tense lob­by­ing by the Vic/Tas branch, to in­tro­duce min­i­mum manda­tory rates for tip-truck driv­ers would go a long way to at­tract­ing more driv­ers to the in­dus­try.

“Owner-driv­ers and truck driver em­ploy­ees are all too of­ten the vic­tims of con­tract un­der­cut­ting and forced into un­safe prac­tices by eco­nomic pres­sures down sup­ply chains,” Mr Berger said.

“This means these driv­ers will now have a surety of in­come and, for the first time, a more pre­dictable, long ca­reer with a se­cure fu­ture.

“It is very rare that a govern­ment will over­haul a pay­ment sys­tem for an en­tire in­dus­try, which makes these rates a big win for this union and our tip-truck driver mem­bers.”

While there were many chal­lenges fac­ing the in­dus­try, Mr Anderson said it was an ex­cit­ing time to be work­ing in trans­port in Vic­to­ria.

“Our in­dus­try is about peo­ple, freight and the econ­omy that drives the stan­dard of liv­ing we all en­joy,” he said.

“While over the years, at times, as an in­dus­try, we have felt left be­hind, there is now a real fo­cus on our in­dus­try and we are en­cour­aged by new in­fra­struc­ture, a new in­dus­try spe­cific depart­ment in Freight Vic­to­ria, and an econ­omy that is go­ing from strength to strength.”

For a new truck driver to get a heavy ve­hi­cle li­cence in Vic­to­ria all they need at the mo­ment is to have a cur­rent Vic­to­rian car li­cence, meet med­i­cal stan­dards, pass an eye test, and pass min­i­mal lev­els of heavy ve­hi­cle knowl­edge and skills tests from an autho­rised trainer.

VicRoads rec­om­mends hav­ing “enough prac­tice so that your driv­ing skills are ad­e­quate”, but since there are no min­i­mum re­quire­ments, all that’s needed is com­ple­tion of a five-hour course.

The VTA be­lieves this does not pre­pare driv­ers ad­e­quately and has called for a heavy ve­hi­cle li­cens­ing sys­tem based on the sub­sidised in­ten­sive eight-day course it runs in con­junc­tion with Arm­strongs Driver Train­ing, which de­liv­ers more than 60 hours of train­ing, men­tor­ing and be­hind-the-wheel ex­pe­ri­ence to new driv­ers.

The ur­gent need to find new, younger driv­ers is borne out by ABS data sug­gest­ing nearly half of the cur­rent work­force in the in­dus­try will be 65 or over within 10 years, while freight vol­umes are ex­pected to dou­ble over the same pe­riod.

“With so much in­fra­struc­ture planned and be­ing built in res­i­den­tial ar­eas, peo­ple rightly ex­pect that truck driv­ers work­ing in their com­mu­ni­ties to have the skills needed to safely nav­i­gate the roads,” the VTA said.

“Un­der the cur­rent li­cens­ing sys­tem in Vic­to­ria vis­i­tors to Aus­tralia can eas­ily get a heavy ve­hi­cle per­mit, pro­vided they met ba­sic visa and car li­cens­ing cri­te­ria.

“We are con­cerned that this has cre­ated a silent un­der­class of trans­port work­ers be­ing em­ployed by op­er­a­tors that are des­per­ate for skilled driv­ers but are starved for choice, and who are pos­si­bly vul­ner­a­ble to un­der­pay­ment from the few rogue op­er­a­tors out there who are am­biva­lent about ex­ploit­ing peo­ple who don’t know their rights.”

PHOTO: FACE­BOOK

FUND­ING FOR NEW DRIV­ERS: Arm­strongs Driver Train­ing.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Vic­to­rian Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Peter Anderson.

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