Keeping skills alert for safer roads


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Protecting heavy vehicle drivers – and keeping our roads safe – by managing fatigue is a major responsibility of everyone in the transport and logistics chain. Recent changes to nationally recognised training will improve driver safety, with transitional arrangements to minimise red tape.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) administers one set of laws for heavy vehicles under the Heavy Vehicle National Law across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT. The NHVR saw an opportunity to add value to fatigue training by better aligning it with the legislation and accreditation requirements. As one of the first industries to engage with Government through the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC), new fatigue management training units were developed.

Truck driver at night

Image supplied by Australian Trucking Association

NHVR Executive Director Productivity and Safety Geoff Casey said the Regulator's desire to improve the long-term safety of the industry led them to the Transport and Logistics Industry Reference Committee (IRC), which provides advice to the AISC about the skills needs of the sector. The importance and urgency of this work was quickly recognised by the AISC who immediately commissioned the IRC to work with NHVR to update the national training package to address the serious issue of heavy vehicle operator safety.

"When someone drives a heavy vehicle while impaired by fatigue they put all road users at risk. That is why helping industry to manage driver fatigue is something the NHVR deals with on a daily basis.

"We were interested in how the current units aligned with the needs of the industry as a whole.

"Through a series of forums hosted jointly with the IRC, we gained a range of views from those in the heavy vehicle industry to understand why noncompliance existed.

"I think it's vital to have different perspectives, from people involved in the day-to-day. I'm an advocate for better training because I believe it will make a difference to safety and efficiency on our roads."

This consultation led to developing new fatigue management training units specifically aligned to the NHVR's fatigue management accreditation requirements.

Coffee break

Image supplied by Australian Trucking Association

Julie Russell, Director of Russell Transport and President of the Queensland Trucking Association, says it is important that staff are well trained in fatigue management.

"Managing fatigue risks on the road is not just the driver's responsibility – it is vital all parties in the chain, including our schedulers, loaders and managers, understand, engage and actively incorporate fatigue management laws and principles into the workflow," she said.

"Together we can get the job done and remain safe on the roads." Mark McKenzie, Chair of the interim Transport and Logistics IRC, says consultation and collaboration are important.

"Meaningful and effective cooperation is crucial if we are to ensure a safe and effective transport and logistics industry continues. Through the IRC, we collaborate with a broad range of industry experts and advocates and can react swiftly as we have seen with the fatigue management case," he said.

Mark McKenzie identifies many future challenges facing the industry, from being ready for the rise of autonomous vehicles, to adapting to changing consumer expectations. He says to meet these challenges the industry will need to "continually skill and re-skill and re‑skill again."

About the Australian Industry and Skills Committee

The Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) is an industry/government collaboration focused on amplifying the voice of industry and building employer's confidence in VET qualifications. The AISC advises Commonwealth and State and Territory Industry and Skills Ministers on the implementation of national vocational education and training policies, and approves nationally recognised training packages for implementation in the VET system. The AISC draws on advice from its network of Industry Reference Committees (IRCs), which are made up of people with experience, skills and knowledge of their particular sector. The IRCs work across industry to ensure their advice reflects the needs of employers.