Industry News

‘Truck drivers need to be sure that those coming at them are well trained’

Declining professional standards and a broken driver licencing and training system are contributing to the dangers truck drivers face out on the road on a daily basis, says Western Roads Federation (WRF) CEO Cam Dumesny.

He says WRF is routinely fielding calls from truck drivers on the east to west route who don’t want to do it anymore because it’s just too dangerous.

“The real concern from drivers is that it’s just becoming far too high risk,” Dumesny said.

“There’s a definite decline in professionalism in the industry, there’s a decline in on-road courtesy to each other, and we’ve got to address the driver licencing and training system. It’s just not acceptable.” 

“There are real concerns about the licensing standards occurring in some of the jurisdictions. At the end of the day, you can have the best trained driver in the world, but it’s the drivers coming at them that need to be trained to that same high standard. Truck drivers need to be sure that other drivers coming at them are competent, well-trained drivers.

“We also need to address international drivers, regardless of where in the world they come from, and that needs to be a national priority – not tomorrow but today.”

Western Roads Federation (WRF) CEO Cam Dumesny.
Conference images: Roxanne Tulk/44 Creative

Following the Eyre Highway crash on April 4, in which three truck drivers tragically lost their lives, WRF chaired a meeting where it detailed a heavy vehicle safety plan, with a number of steps aimed at improving safety for truck drivers and other road users.

“When the road accident on the Eyre Highway occurred during the rail outage, we had a number of drivers from the east coast on that route who had never driven it. There were drivers out there who were ill-equipped, badly prepared and inexperienced. You shouldn’t be able to suddenly go from shuttle runs from Melbourne to Ballarat, to driving a road train to Perth or Darwin.

“We have a problem in this industry. Fundamentally, everyone knows we have a problem – the regulatory authorities, emergency services, local governments. That impacts us because it means we might start getting restricted access on routes. We’re going to pay a price in lost access, a price in increased insurance premiums, and above all a moral price if we don’t pay respect to those drivers killed on our roads by getting serious and fixing these issues.”

So where do we start?

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” Dumesny said. “I think as an industry we need to step up and create a plan about how we can work with other road user groups, cyclists, caravanners and car drivers to improve road safety. Let’s be the bigger people in the room and lead the charge.”

Included in WRF’s heavy vehicle safety plan are a national four-week road safety blitz and a taskforce that would investigate licensing in the event of a fatal crash.

The national road safety blitz being proposed would be undertaken in conjunction with each of the state’s road authorities, looking at speed, fatigue, drug use and driver behaviour.

Though Dumesny admits such a move wouldn’t be popular among everybody, he conceded that it’s something that really needs to be done.

“We can’t keep turning a blind eye. The last time something like this was done was probably about 10 years ago. What we’re saying is that we need to reinstate that. We need to get all relevant authorities and regulators out there.

“They also need to be checking licencing and a truck’s suitability for the job at hand. We’ve had trucks running out to Darwin with no air conditioning – that’s an OH&S issue. There are also all these reports of people driving three-up, so we need to be checking that the legal number of people are in the truck.”

And in the event of a fatal crash, WRF wants to see a thorough investigation taking place that determines when and where the heavy vehicle driver obtained their licence to identify any common trends.

“We need to have confidence with heavy vehicle driver training and licencing and be confident that RTOs (registered training organisations) are complying to standards,” Dumesny added.

“It all comes back to basics. No matter how good a driver you are, you need to have confidence that the person coming at you is equally as good and well trained. And this goes for all road users.

“Nationally the road toll is up significantly. There seems to be an underlying anger, frustration and sense of entitlement amongst all road users – whether it be caravanners, cyclists or car drivers – but we’ve got to have some respect for each other, and that seems to have dissipated.

“That’s amongst our own drivers too, where a small minority think they’re the only ones who have a right to be on the road.

“That’s why we need to work with other industries and be the bigger person on the road. It’s time that we as an industry step up and lead that conversation nationally. Other road user groups have issues, but we need to accept that we have issues too.

“Truck drivers are being killed – and we as an industry don’t pay respect to them and their families if we don’t fix this problem.”

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