Having a Truck License Does Not Mean You are a Good or Safe Driver


A Message to Newly Licensed Truck Drivers

Having a truck license does not mean you are a good or safe driver: So you have finally passed your trucker’s course? You have got your brand new license, a nice new job and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Before you get too excited, always remember that just because you have your truck driver’s license does not mean you are a good or safe driver.

Driving a normal car is difficult but with the added weight and length of a truck, you are increasing your risk tenfold. On top of that, you have to take into careful consideration the road surface, weather conditions, fatigue levels, and your stopping distance will definitely be different when compared to driving a smaller vehicle.

Things to be aware of:

Truck driving is very tiring: Often truck drivers have to wake up at very early hours of the day in order to drive to their depot, load the truck and head to the destination. Most of the time truck drivers travel across vast distances, and the fatigue associated with constant long-distance driving is one of the biggest causes of accidents around the world.

You share the road with lunatics: Unfortunately, there are people on the road who tend to forget that your vehicle is a lot bigger than theirs. Due to larger blind spots, and an increased stopping distance due to the weight of your truck, it makes it difficult to just stop your vehicle mid-stride.

Travelling through an assortment of road types: There will be times where you will be lucky to travel through wide, straight, flat roads, but then there may be times where you will be required by your employer to travel up mountains, down valleys, through winding roads and narrow tunnels. If driving on these roads wasn’t difficult enough, you now have the added concern of your weight which decreases your ability to move and the required speed in order to move forward.

You have much larger blind spots: Due to the size of trucks, as well as the elevation from the ground, the driver experiences a much greater blind spot. Blind spots are areas of obstruction where things like cars and other road hazards are obstructed from view. Get into the habit of checking your mirrors often to ensure you are not missing anything.

Drive to the conditions: Most novice drivers of any type of vehicle overlook the need to adjust their speed according to the conditions. When it rains, the road is wet which means the tyres do not stick as well to the road’s surface. On top of that, the brake pads are wet which means that the stopping distance is further increased combined with less friction to the road. Drivers who do not practise caution when driving in rough weather tend to crash or skid when driving.

Arrogance: Sometimes it is prudent to know the limit of your abilities. Often new truck drivers or employers try to push for faster runs. When you drive for more than 10 hours across the country, this makes it difficult to stay awake. When experiencing fatigue, the body and mind become sluggish and as a result, the reaction time needed in order to perform tasks such as slowing down or stopping is increased. The consumption of alcohol or prohibited substances also aid in the decrease in the drivers’ reaction speed. This sort of negligence is one of the top killers of drivers across the world.

Employment Testing: Beware that in recent years although it has been easier to get a truck driver’s license, and drive with a company the next day. It is always good to ensure you have sufficient practise and training because due to the increasing trend of trucking accidents, many organisations will request a competency assessment and print outs of your driving record before employing you and letting you loose in their trucks.

We know how great it is to gain a new qualification or license and now that you have a trucker’s driving license, you are entering an exciting but demanding field. Each day is a challenge and an adventure, but safety must always be your number one priority especially when you share the road with a lot of smaller vehicles.

We all want you to come home to our families after a day of work and many of us need to use the roads to get home, so let’s try to make them as safe as possible for all road users.


Paying Staff Correctly and Keeping Up with Changes

This month’s Reader’s Request came from a client who is concerned about ensuring that they are paying staff correctly and keeping up with increases when they occur.

I was delighted to get this question as many employers pay the bare minimum, sometimes not even the award rate, and end up in strife not only with the employee they should be paying but also the Fair Work Ombudsman.

It is often thought that as long as the employer pays the award rate that they are in compliance, however, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, the Fair Work Ombudsman deals with breaches with penalty rates, overtime, incorrect classifications, and not meeting the requirements of providing payslips on a regular basis.

In recent years companies even as big as McDonalds, Super AMart, No. 1 Riverside Quay Pty Ltd (a retail company who employees 400 workers), have all fallen to noncompliance in regards to payment of wages. Each breach can be worth $6,600 and up to $33,000 for a corporate employer and others, such as managers, can also be penalised.

In  January 2012 there were several workers in the Riverina area that were back-paid a total of $71,400 following intervention by the Fair Work Ombudsman, due to 13 employers breaching workplace laws in regards to incorrect payment of wages. One individual, who was a salesman from Wagga, had been underpaid by $38,200 over a period of 20 years.

Therefore, it pays to get it right and here are our tips to help you keep on top of it:

  •  Know and document the awards and classifications that you employ under and what penalty rates that may be applied, this includes meal breaks and leave entitlements. For modern awards, this information can be found here:
  • Utilise the tools on the Fair Work Ombudsman website to find the right pay and to check pay rates using the calculators such as PayCheck Plus and Pay Rates Calculator.
  • Subscribe to the pay rate updates for the awards that apply to your company, for modern awards you can subscribe here. Alternatively, if you are a financial member of industry or business associations, such as NSW Business Chamber and other industry associations (retail, hairdressers, etc.), they will often send out wages updates too.

Contractor Management

Recently I have been getting a lot of queries about contractors and what we should be supplying them and what they should be supplying us if we contract work to them.

The management of contractors has changed under the new WHS legislation and are now considered as “Workers”. So when reading the Act, regulations or any codes of practice and you see the term “Workers” you need to remember this now includes contractors and subcontractors.

When organisations/businesses engage in using contractors or subcontractors they are still required to provide a work environment without risk to health and safety, maintaining safe systems of work, providing information, instruction, training and supervision to protect them from risks to health and safety in work carried out for your business, plus now they must also consult with them on work health and safety matters.

Under the WHS legislation, contractors are also defined as Persons Conducting Business or Undertaking business (PCBUs) meaning that they have a responsibility of their workers who could be employees, subcontractors or trainees, and in some cases even visitors.

 When managing contractors it is important to always:

  • Provide a site, workplace and area induction, providing them with information of any risks, site safety standards and emergency procedures.
  • Check they hold current qualifications to carry out the work required i.e. tickets, licensing, certification.
  • Request copies of the Safe Work Method Statements for the work being carried out.
  • Request a current copy of their insurances that are applicable to the work they are doing i.e. worker’s compensation, public liability, etc., prior to allowing them to commence work.
  • Include them in toolbox meetings and safety meetings, where possible.