Ron Finemore calls for change amid driver shortages

With driver shortages and increasing supply demands industry-wide, Ron Finemore Transport founder, Ron Finemore, says something needs to change.

Ron Finemore Transport is renowned for its safety protocols, new equipment, and for its peak condition late model fleet.

Operating in and out of the Albury-Wodonga region along the east coast of Australia, the heavy vehicle units, on average, are no more than two years old, carting food and fuel for tier one customers.

However, despite utilising the latest equipment and operating with the safest protocols, Finemore told Prime Mover that the fleet, like the entire industry, is feeling the effects of driver shortages.

“We’ve got a shortage of drivers and an increasing market without enough people to do the work,” he said.

“Our company is 100 drivers short, and everybody is short.”

Finemore said the issue comes down to the fact that existing Australian drivers, especially younger ones, are restricted from getting a licence.

“Young drivers can’t become a truck driver until they’ve failed somewhere else, because they can’t get a licence when they leave school,” he said.

“So, they’ve got to go and work somewhere else and then fail there, or get sick of it and come back to be a truck driver.”

According to Finemore, the current licencing rules for truck drivers sees age as well as time required holding each license being barriers.

In this area, he believes licencing should be based on a driver’s competency.

“We’ve got to make it easier for young people to become a truck driver,” Finemore said.

“If they have the required level of competency, and if they’re working for reputable companies that are responsible for them, they should be able to hold a licence restricted to that company that is accountable for them,” he said.

The other problem lies with making heavy line haulage an essential service and gaining access to drivers from overseas.

“You can’t bring people legally into Australia to drive trucks as migrants,” Finemore said.

“Under the current visa system, a truck driver is not a skilled occupation.

“We’ve been trying to get it added to the skilled occupation list unsuccessfully for 20 years.”

While many prime mover OEMs look to move towards autonomous transport solutions such as self-driving trucks to combat these issues, Finemore explains other aspects of the job, such as loading and unloading trucks, are left unresolved.

“Somebody’s got to load them, unload them and secure the load,” he said.

“Somebody has to do the work at both ends. That’s the issue.”

As a result, Finemore is calling on governments to make the changes necessary to “allow the people that want to work in the industry to work in it safely”.

In December last year, the Australian Government welcomed transport ministers’ in-principle agreement to an improved, nationally-consistent approach to the training and licence progression of heavy vehicle drivers.

The National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework Decision Regulation Impact Statement (Decision RIS) proposed a series of reforms to improve road safety and productivity.

The Government claimed these changes would strengthen heavy vehicle driver skills and knowledge through redesigned learning and assessment requirements specific to each license class.

At the time, it was announced that minimum course lengths and behind-the-wheel time would also be made compulsory, while some training and assessment will be delivered online to lower costs and allow license applicants more flexibility.

In addition, it was reported that a new experience-based licence-progression pathways would be introduced to help drivers progress to higher licence classes more quickly.

Despite this, Finemore said the specific details on these proposals haven’t been released and the timeframe of their arrival is uncertain.

“They’re talking about it happening over a number of years,” he said.

“I probably won’t live long enough.”

“Each of the states have their say, so you end up with the lowest common denominator of things happening because we don’t have national regulation.

“You end up with very minimal change in the time it’s going to take to happen.

“It’s not happening, and that’s the problem. It needs to happen not in a few year’s time, it needs to happen now.”

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