Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee
Aspects of road safety in Australia

BURROWS, Mr Warwick Stanley, Managing Director, bctraining


CHAIR: Welcome. Before I continue, do you have anything to add about the capacity in which you appear here today.

Mr Burrows : I am managing director of bctraining, which is a registered training organisation in Goulburn and approved by RMS to deliver heavy vehicle competency based assessments.

CHAIR: Don't you have another hat?

Mr Burrows : I am an assessor as well.

CHAIR: Do you have another hat to do with an RTO association?

Mr Burrows : I did have that further in my paper—yes, sorry.

CHAIR: I just have to get to who you are and what you are doing here because people might say: 'How come he's there? I'm a trainer et cetera and I'm not.'

Mr Burrows : The RMS have an RTO working group. Six RTOs were invited by RMS to become part of the group, and I am one of those.

CHAIR: Mr Burrows, I invite you to make a brief opening statement. Tell us who you are and what your concerns are.

Mr Burrows : I thank the committee for the invitation to come here this afternoon and voice our concerns with the HVCBA scheme used in New South Wales by the people of New South Wales to upgrade their licence to that of a heavy-vehicle licenced driver. On 1 December 2014, RMS introduced a new agreement for RTOs to deliver the HVCBA scheme under that scheme within the blanket of RMS's accreditation agreement. The agreement was significantly the same as any agreement we had for the previous six or seven. The two major things that came in were what they affectionately called 42D—in short, that is the separation of the training and assessment of drivers under the accreditation agreement—and 2.7, which required the electronic surveillance of the on-road component only of all assessments. These, in our opinion, were implemented without rigorous forethought for the implications to the industry and the assessors. RTOs saw the clause as the opening of the floodgate, so to speak, which created a monopoly for other assessors and RTOs who were multiple employees of a business against a single operator in any given town, who were primarily mums and dads.

During all of this, we had many submissions from the RTOs. At that stage there was no work group; we were just a group of RTOs who meet once a month to talk out the new implications of the agreement that we were asked to sign. I believe that in a lot of the cases of what was happening within 42D and 2.7 it was merely the ideas that RMS wanted to get across as lip service to everybody. We, the RTOs, were not really engaged and nor was there any forethought about where our thoughts were of 42D and 2.7. Everybody agrees with 2.7 unanimously—all RTOs, all assessors—with the one difficulty: there are only two camera lenses, one in and one out. At one of our submissions we required a camera on the right-hand mirror and one on the left-hand mirror, looking backwards, and one at the rear of the vehicle to see the reverse.

CHAIR: So one on each mirror—

Mr Burrows : One on each mirror and one at the rear of the vehicle. The camera which we have has the capacity to take four different cameras. The capture of the evidence would always be there, but that just did not happen. On 10 June 2014, I convened a meeting in North Sydney of the 28 RTOs who were private RTOs versus government RTOs under the scheme. At that stage there were nearly 50 RTOs, but 28 is the number of private RTOs. The rest were government controlled, which made the implementation of 42D very easy. They had no choice but to comply, whereas we, the private RTOs, had great difficulty in making it happen or putting it into place.

From that meeting, we, the RTOs, submitted to RMS the idea that we could have, in remote and regional New South Wales, a way where 100 per cent of the videos that were conducted in the assessment were audited prior to the student being given a ticket of approval to get his licence. To our surprise, two weeks later this was implemented. Everybody received the application form to apply for a variation to 42D. Everybody did. Very few were approved. The two criteria that were used to decide who did and who did not get that variation were geographic location and market depth. Market depth referred to the proximity to yourself of other assessors who were qualified under HVCBA but may not at that stage been active in that position. They may have had another job—they could have done anything—but those people were still used as market depth against your application for the HRV to continue work.

The new requirements from that agreement were included in the ICAC findings from Operation Nickel, referred to, as everybody says, as the Binos case. I have to say that I fully support 2.7, and I need it expanded. There is not one of the assessors who work under my RTO, who number 32, who have any problem with multiple cameras inside, outside or backwards.

But the industry could see the shortcomings of clause 4.2(d), particularly the hardship and the negative impacts experienced by families who suffered from loss of income, loss of business and loss of family lifestyles. These were the flow-ons in regional areas. This was supported by RMS's response to the ICAC report, for which I quote page 20, column 2, in the first paragraph, where RMS has indicated that splitting the assessment from the training is not practicable and would place onerous demands on the industry and applicants in regional areas.

CHAIR: Can I just interrupt you—sorry, Mr Burrows. I may be confused here. I thought—and I can take a nod from the back of the room—that the assessors and the trainers were split. Is that not correct? I hear 'not across the whole state'. That clears that up. We will take that nod and the finger wave on the Hansard as an all clear. Thank you.

Mr Burrows : Despite declarations at many roadshows prior to the introduction of the new agreement, dated 1 January 2013, it was stated that, even though this clause was included in the new agreement, it would not be mandated. RMS implemented a full compliance on 1 June 2015. On this date, 4.2(d) became reality, and it is then that the regional assessors started the decline, which RMS had no sympathy towards.

The effect on smaller RTOs and trainer-assessors in regional New South Wales has been devastating, causing hardship and negative impact on their businesses. Some have had their incomes drastically reduced. Some have been forced out of business, giving the larger operators the monopoly in the area. And applicants are being disadvantaged by not being able to access training and assessment in their own local area.

Larger RTOs employing more than one trainer-assessor have a distinct advantage over the single-operator family businesses. RMS expects collaboration/collusion between the opposing trainer and assessors to comply with 4.2(d). This stares directly in the face of free-enterprise business principles. Larger RTOs have been uncooperative or charge exorbitant fees in a veiled attempt to show cooperation. Some smaller operators have been offered what is termed a high-risk variation, allowing them to conduct both training and assessment provided that the assessment video is audited by another assessor or an RTO. The HRVs which are approved have variable expiries, which gives no certainty to the trainer or the assessor.

The larger RTOs are required to audit only five per cent of their assessment videos, which gives them the opportunity to grant the passes where they are not appropriate. In our RTO in 2016, we conducted 1,178 assessments. That does not include what they call a competency test, which does not appear—it goes under the five per cent rule—and/or a condition B, which is where a person has a restriction on their licence to only drive automatic or synchromesh vehicles. You need to remove that so that you can drive the Roadranger, the manual box. Of those, 554 assessments were 100 per cent audited, and they were conducted by both us and other assessors around New South Wales. Of the other 574 that complied with clause 4.2(d), we were required to audit only five per cent, or 29 assessments.

In that period we had fails in the number of 16, which also includes terminations. In the FC assessment you have both a 'fail' finding and a 'terminated' finding. 'Terminated' is obviously when the person is unsafe for everybody around: 'Sorry, sir, can you just pull it in to the kerb at the next opportunity.' That is a termination. The 'fail' is at the end of the assessment when the score is calculated and they have more than the required crosses in the box.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: What did you say the percentage of that was?

Mr Burrows : I am sorry?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Could you indicate the percentage of fails and terminations?

Mr Burrows : Sorry, I said 16. In 2016, our fails/terminations totalled 25.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: As a percentage of what?

Mr Burrows : 1,178.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Sorry?

Mr Burrows : 1,178 in total.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: So your fails were a quarter of one per cent?

Mr Burrows : A quarter of one per cent.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: A quarter of one per cent as opposed to—I am sorry to interrupt you, Mr Burrows. We heard evidence of about six or seven per cent across the board, which I found astonishing. A quarter of one per cent?

Mr Burrows : From my perspective, I would say that my assessors are better assessor-trainers.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I would say your assessors are extraordinary.

Mr Burrows : And I would invite you to look at any of my videos.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I am not having a challenge, Mr Burrows—

Mr Burrows : No, I understand that.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: but let me tell you this again from my life's experience. Sadly, I have been around for longer than I wished. A quarter of one per cent of failures across any assessment—something is not right.

Mr Burrows : Again, I invite you to look at the videos.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: The standards that have been set for them to meet the assessment are too low.

Mr Burrows : I do not disagree with that.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: So there you are. A quarter of one per cent is crazy, particularly in this game. I have been trying to drive a truck for 40 years and still cannot back one up. That is a disturbing figure. I do not want to direct it at you, but we have observers in the room. I think they should really think about that. There would be no other assessment on earth that would have a failure rate as low as a quarter of one per cent. I do not care what it is—trying out for the football team or fitting shoes. None. That is a disturbing number.

Mr Burrows : I would still invite you, sir, to come and look.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: No, I tell you what: I believe you are very good at meeting the standards that are required.

Mr Burrows : Thank you.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: But I am saying to you that a quarter of one per cent means that the bar is too low. If you get time to reflect on that, I would be interested in—

CHAIR: Mr Burrows, I am keen to hear—but we are keen to ask you questions—if there is anything you really want to tell us. We should follow this line of questioning. You have 30 or 40 years—how many years—of experience in this industry?

Mr Burrows : I have been in this industry so long that my parents' first vehicle had wooden wheels.

CHAIR: Wooden wheels?

Mr Burrows : Wooden wheels. We have been in trucks a long time.

CHAIR: So you and Senator O'Sullivan are a lot longer—

Mr Burrows : A long time.

CHAIR: So let us go down that path. How are the standards?

Mr Burrows : Terribly low. Terribly low to the point where—

CHAIR: Tell us why. Give us some examples. Let us really flush this out.

Mr Burrows : For a start, when the person comes to start their training, they are to describe to us how and what they do in a predeparture check.

CHAIR: In what, sorry?

Mr Burrows : In a predeparture check. You check that your vehicle is safe to travel down the road. It is, in my opinion as a 50-year motor mechanic, pretty high. They ask you to locate, describe and inspect—that is the terminology—your engine oil, drive belts, leaks, under and over; all the things. We are not there to do a mechanic's report on it, but we are there to make sure that this truck or vehicle is ready to drive down the road. We need to check the colours and the intensity of the light lenses, mudflaps, mudguards—all sorts of things.

Where it goes downhill is in the fact that a person could come with a past logbook from Service New South Wales, where they conduct their knowledge test. That requires them or allows them to demonstrate in six hours for anything up to HC the 15 criteria that currently need to be demonstrated. In that period of time, there is no time frame—nor should there be, I might add—to what a person is allowed as a minimum or a maximum to demonstrate competency. That is dependent entirely on the person's ability or their reading of the assessment instrument, which is what they are handed at the same time as they get their learners logbook.

Within the assessment instrument, or the guidebook, as they call it, it lists all 15 criteria. And, it that criteria, it breaks it down to a performance component, a conditions and a requirement. The performance will describe to the student what they need to demonstrate, whether it be in steering the vehicle, push-pull, '10 to four', palming it—whatever. It will tell you what you are expected to demonstrate. The conditions of it will tell you where you are expected to do it, be it continually, be it over a distance of a certain amount of kilometres, or be it over a certain time frame. The requirement of that criteria will tell you how and where you may be asked to re-demonstrate or get a tick in a box, so to speak—that you have demonstrated what the criteria asks. Then once you have it demonstrated and the tick is there, unless you demonstrate later on in the training that you have forgotten or you cannot do it again, that ticks stands.

CHAIR: Let me just pull you up there, Mr Burrows. I have to get to this. And I have no problem—they should know if the bloody lights are working and they should know if the belts are all right. Every truckie does that, anyway. That is part of our—you get up in the morning, have a scratch, clean your teeth. I am talking long-distance line truckies. That is what we always did. We wanted to make sure that the wheel nuts were—everything. That is just simple. So you are clearly saying to me that the quality or the training standards have slipped over the years, or the testing standards have dropped over the years. Are we just punching out more truck drivers? The RTO is saying, 'Let's fight over some dollars that are being supplied by the government. The standards are coming down low. But, anyway, tick, flick.'

Mr Burrows : I believe so.

CHAIR: Is that what is happening here?

Mr Burrows : I believe so. The real problem in that line is that an assessor—the person who decides, 'I want to be a truck assessor'—go and fulfil the criteria for becoming a heavy vehicle driving instructor. That is an RMS course. After that they must achieve their TAE41116.

CHAIR: What is that in English? Is that Cert IV?

Mr Burrows : Cert IV—workplace training assessment.

CHAIR: Train the trainer. All right.

Mr Burrows : Then you need to also pass, again, TLI43116, which is your Cert IV in heavy vehicle driver instructor assessor.

CHAIR: What do you do to get that? Do you go and spend 16 years running between Perth and Darwin?

Mr Burrows : You go to certain companies and spend about a fortnight, and that will give you that. Prior to this you need three out of the last four years of the holding of the grade of licence that you wish to train or assess. There is nothing to say how much experience you must have. Like most people, they get a licence and put it in their pocket, and pull it and say, 'Oh, I've got one of those. I can do this. I'll go and do it.' But within the regime there is no testing as to this person's real ability or knowledge as to what is actually going to be able to be imparted on any prospective student or client. So, at the end of the day, you end up with someone who is in it, colloquially, for the money. They pass the criteria. They get all the ticks in all the boxes. That paperwork then goes to RMS. RMS then do pretty rigorous tests. It takes them anything up to 28 days to assess the application.

CHAIR: Now, with the 28 days to assess the application—on desktop?

Mr Burrows : I have no idea. We just with the supply the paperwork to the department. Inside or on their 28th day they will come back and say, 'No, you need more. Justify this; do that,' or 'yes' or 'no'.

CHAIR: In your years of experience, Mr Burrows, how did it get to this? Were the transport companies going, 'Oh, Christ almighty! We are short of truckies.'

Mr Burrows : We need more.

CHAIR: 'And it is all red tape. Cut red tape.' Is that what it was?

Mr Burrows : I would imagine so—yes.

CHAIR: Please feel free to say it as it is.

Mr Burrows : Yes, that is the problem.

CHAIR: You see, we live in a world where everyone wants to cut red tape. Sometimes—and we will make this very clear—red tape is very important.

Mr Burrows : Very important.

CHAIR: When we have juggernauts up and down on our highways—and this is an old line I use—we want red tape. We want our truckies to be the best trained and qualified in the world. And this is what our other road users expect. This is not the case with what I am hearing. You are confirming in my mind what has been flying on my Facebook since this inquiry started. I do not run my life through Facebook, but some of it is quite frightening. What is the fix, Mr Burrows? What do you say as a man of all these years of experience who sits with another 16 RTOs in the country? It appears that there are certain rules for you guys but there are different rules for others. You talked about there seeming to be double standards—which has certainly piqued Senator O'Sullivan's interest. You guys are not allowed to train and assess. Tell me what a trainer does in country New South Wales. Are you from country New South Wales?

Mr Burrows : I am from Goulburn.

CHAIR: Are all of your trainers 40-hour-a-week, full-time employees? Is that the case? All your members—your other mates around New South Wales?

Mr Burrows : What happens is that the RTO has an assessor affiliated with them who operates his own business. But, under the agreement now, they must, as an assessor, tie themselves to an RTO which is approved by RMS to be able to deliver this scheme.

CHAIR: It all sounds Mickey Mouse on the surface.

Mr Burrows : And then the assessor will pay the RTO a fee per licence. That is done for the RTO to control the paperwork, deliver the paperwork, supply the paperwork, log it, keep the videos, audit this and keep it up to scratch. We go as far as Parkes, Tenterfield and Moree—very geographically strangled. The guys out there have not been in the game quite as long as me—they are not as old as me—but they have been in it for many, many years and had many millions of kilometres of experience up and down the road. All they want to do is impart knowledge on to the people of their towns so that the industry can prosper and continue. Our real problem comes where there are cross-border differences between the expected quality or assessment criteria for drivers in other states and in New South Wales. New South Wales is the most rigorous; there is no doubt about it. That is not to say the rest are not.

CHAIR: You have made that very clear. Yes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: The most rigorous, but not necessarily rigorous enough.

Mr Burrows : Correct. You can, for example, go to Queensland—and we will pick on the B-doubles, as they are the most dangerous projectile we have got going down the road—get your B-double licence and come back in 50 hours across the border, change your licence quickly enough and drive down with a New South Wales MC licence and not have done any real experience in a lesser or greater truck, be it HC or whatever. Up there they can get an HR licence, have someone sign a letter and take it into roads up there. They give them a B-double and away they go.

CHAIR: Okay. We have established that there are different standards. We have established that over the years the quality of testing has certainly dropped. It is not the standard that it was. Because of the time—and Senator Gallacher has joined us; no-one can pull the wool over his eyes on transport either—can I bring you to some photos that I tabled earlier. Mr Burrows, I am happy for you to have them, but I would ask that you leave them behind because I do not want to make them public. Cast your eye over this. Please, senators, feel free to jump in. I have no proof, but what I do have in my first photo is two gentlemen sitting at a table. It appears they are going through some paperwork. I do not know who these gentlemen are. I have no idea. There is a white folder in front of them that looks like a training manual.

Mr Burrows : That is a New South Wales bus driver authority manual.

CHAIR: Oh, okay. Thank you very much. A New South Wales bus driver authority manual. There is nothing suspicious about two men sitting around a table. It appears one is training—they might both be talking. Can you see what that orange thing in the background is, Mr Burrows?

Mr Burrows : It looks like the slippery slide at a McDonald's.

CHAIR: Yes. I note you were sitting in the room earlier, but you have worked it out. Is it normal for that to be sitting there? You do not have to answer.

Mr Burrows : Not in my organisation.

CHAIR: No. Your organisation does not do training at McDonald's?

Mr Burrows : No. Definitely not.

CHAIR: Would you take a New South Wales bus driver manual to McDonald's to talk to anyone?

Mr Burrows : Absolutely not.

CHAIR: Now, there are some faces here. I want to be very careful: I do not know who these people are. There are four smiling faces and they are all holding up proficiency certificates. It has come from RMS—see: New South Wales—so, obviously, it has something to do with transport. Is there a certain proficiency certificate, or could they be proficient in light rigid, heavy rigid—it could be anything, is that right?

Mr Burrows : It could be anything. We do not use a certificate that looks anything like that in what we do as HVCBA.

CHAIR: Can you point me towards what this might be? No idea?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Is there no standard industry certificate that is available for issue to everyone who gets through the proficiency test? Does each training organisation create their own?

Mr Burrows : No. HVCBA has a certificate called a certificate of competency and we also have a certificate of attendance. The certificate of attendance is issued daily when the student finishes at whatever time that might be their training for the day and for criteria they have successfully been assessed and passed. It is marked on the certificate, signed by both people and issued to the student.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Was that certificate designed by the authorities or is it one that you designed for your company?

Mr Burrows : No, it is from the authority. The only certificate—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: They are all the same in New South Wales at least?

Mr Burrows : In HVCBA they are all the same. The only one we design ourselves is the statement of attainment that the RTA would issue where a person completes a recognised training course.

CHAIR: The reason I have shown these photos to my fellow committee members is that there could have been a party after they all passed and went to McDonald's. Would you issue certificates at McDonald's for your trainees?

Mr Burrows : No.

CHAIR: Let's leave that one. It could have been anything but let me bring you to another one. You can see there is a gentleman standing at a steel ladder—that is what it appears to be—and he is in fluoro. It appears he is instructing the trainee in load restraint. He is obviously tying a knot. Is this how you do it in your business? How do you teach load restraint?

Mr Burrows : There are very specific guidelines for how the student must demonstrate proficiency in load restraint. You are allowed in New South Wales to use a static truck body that has fixed to it either a pile of six-high palettes or a block of concrete. The concrete is used to demonstrate chain restraint; the palettes are used to demonstrate ropes and straps. Somewhere near the item there is to be a toolbox and in the toolbox is not just one but three or four different types of load-restraining devices. They need to choose the correct one out of the box, put it on, use it, remove it and restow it. This is just not allowed.

CHAIR: There is another photo which appears to be teaching load restraint. It appears to be someone who is in hysterics or frightened and someone who must be training and who is holding some twine. I have forgotten the technical term for these—

Mr Burrows : It is an isocrate.

CHAIR: Thank you, isocrate. How do you train load restraint for isocrate? What is the standard training in New South Wales?

Mr Burrows : They are metre by 1200 square so that two can go side-by-side and touch each other. They must sit on the gunwales or inside the gunwales of the body for which the straps then go over the container and not the frame. So the strap will go under the frame, across the top, across the two and down. Of course, depending on the weight of that crate, whatever you lash it down with has to hold 80 per cent of whatever it weighs from moving forward if it is not supported at the front. If it is supported at the front, it has to hold 20 per cent of that weight from going upwards, 50 per cent of it going sideways and 50 per cent backwards. The normal blue strap that you see used on all trucks—assuming it is a usable strap and it passes the criteria—will hold 2500 kilos, which will definitely hold two of those tanks in place. But you definitely would not use what looks to be, dare I say, a motorbike hold-down around the frame at the top.

CHAIR: Let me bring you to the next couple of photos. In New South Wales training, which RMS told us was one on one, but here we have a trainer sitting with groups of people, which we are told is allowed in Queensland. For the people you represent, and not just in your own business, you are not allowed to train in groups like that, are you?

Mr Burrows : Absolutely not. We are one on one.

CHAIR: But in Queensland they can train all these people and so the scale of costs would be much less than for you and your fellow RTOs in New South Wales. Then they can all jump into B-doubles and head across the border. Has your association raised this concern with RMS?

Mr Burrows : Yes, we have. The Australian Driver Trainers Association, the ADTA, has raised the differences—

CHAIR: I am not blaming the RMS by the way, but Queensland is having a ball here.

Mr Burrows : We have all made submissions asking why and how. I guess they do their very best within their constraints, but Queensland will tell us to go away and we would probably tell them.

CHAIR: Can you deliver the theoretical side of heavy vehicle training in groups? Can it be done successfully in your opinion?

Mr Burrows : In heavy vehicle driver training, as an RTO, there are five units of competency to drive anything from a light rigid to a multi-combination vehicle. That assessment is written assessment and is governed by ASQA; and ASQA is very pedantic on how it is to be delivered and where. Yes, it can be delivered to multiple people but if someone in New South Wales undertakes to do what we call a TLI certificate, which is transport and logistics infrastructure, we still do it one on one.

CHAIR: Is that because you are not allowed?

Mr Burrows : The TLI under ASQA can be delivered to multiples, but even though that is allowed we still do not do that. The reason for that is that to obtain the TLI the unit descriptor of any particular grade of truck insists that for the person to obtain the grade of licence the prerequisite is that they hold the statement of attainment for the TLI. Between ASQA and RMS in our state, if you do the TLI written component, the practical component is that part of the component that comes from the guidebook with the assessment instrument which RMS issues when you pass the knowledge test. Obviously you do not have the graded licence—you have come to do it—but you cannot have the TLI unless you do the practical and you cannot have the practical unless you do the TLI. For that small snippet of time you have neither, but at the end of the day, when you finish your practical assessment and you pass, you then automatically get a pass in the TLI written component for which the RTO can then offer you the statement of attainment to that grade.

CHAIR: I wanted to raise this because we saw the shenanigans that happened in Queensland with a New South Wales RTO jumping the border. It was corruption personified with 114 show causes. You do not need to comment on this; I am having a spray. The assessor has been dealt with. Queensland Transport sat where you are and said he will not get his training licence back. There is nothing stopping New South Wales based RTOs who may be very close to the Queensland border jumping over and continuing to train en masse like this. It is not illegal. Then there is no restraint against them jumping in a B-Double and crossing into New South Wales.

Mr Burrows : No, not once they have the licence.

CHAIR: Sorry, I cut you off.

Mr Burrows : No, you are right.

CHAIR: I am getting madder!

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Can I ask a question of Mr Burrows. I am not seeking that you identify anybody, but, if you turn your mind to the worst trainers and the worst assessors that you know within your industry—your sector—could you give us a thumb sketch of why you would rate them as being the worst with an eye for us to be able to draw an inference of the impact, potentially, on their competency and therefore the safety that follows? Everyone has cowboys and short cutters. We talked earlier—and you heard me talk, so I will not repeat it all—about the relationships that can occur. If you are reluctant to do this out in the open—

Mr Burrows : No, not at all.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I would be happy to move in camera because I really want to hear this.

Mr Burrows : It would be no secret that, in all industries, the industry talks. It does not take very long for it to get around where you, as a member of the public, should go to get this licence because, 'This fellow does it like this.' To RMS's credit, we have had one where they have deregistered the person for doing HC licences in just the prime mover.

CHAIR: Without a trailer?

Mr Burrows : Without a trailer.

CHAIR: But they got caught?

Mr Burrows : They got caught.

CHAIR: And they were kicked out?

Mr Burrows : And they were kicked out.

CHAIR: Well done RMS.

Mr Burrows : Absolutely. But we need more, which is why I said we wanted cameras on the mirrors and cameras at the rear of the vehicle. A lot of my assessors and I had this discussion when this started to come to the front. I said: 'Simply remove the camera from the clip on your windscreen when you do your prescript read'—we have to do a prescript read to introduce the student to the course—'pull it out, hold it out the window and show backwards. Show that you have a trailer and show that it has the load on it. Whatever you want to do.'

CHAIR: Yes. See if it jumps the kerb on the way around the corner.

Mr Burrows : That is it. A lot of it goes back to the actual assessor and their passion for the job. It was not so many years ago where the average age of a heavy vehicle driving assessor in New South Wales was very close to 50. Now it is much less. These people had come into this process from before this process, and they were just simply on the wave as it went through. Our problem really started on 1 January 2014 when 42D came in. There were people who were in the industry who were fabulous assessors. I have one, who I could quote, who has all but disappeared because he just cannot comply with 42D. He has had a couple of HRV assessment variations, but it had gotten to the point where it said, 'There will be no more—just comply.' He could not, simply because, in the town he was in, the only other assessor who was there who was not RTO made it so difficult for him that, in fact, there were threats of intimidation between one and the other and police reports. This was just not going to happen, so he just had to get out of the industry. This man had 47 years experience on the highway. He knew what to do; he loved to teach the people. It cost him many, many problems with his family—with his children. He is now gone. We cannot afford to lose those people. We need them.

Senator GALLACHER: Can I ask a question. It has been no secret that, for half a century, there have been problems with some aspects of training. I can tell you about when an eastern European group would send one bloke up to do the training. He would get the licences for 50 drivers. Those blokes would buy trucks, head up and down the road and hope to Christ they did not kill anybody. My question really is: what sort of employers are going to less than reputable RTOs? I presume your customers come back to you and say, 'Thanks for sending me a good driver.' What are these other people saying—they are just closing their eyes?

Mr Burrows : We do not deal actually with the employer—very rarely. We deal with the students themselves. There was a time where one of the major, major companies in this country would send people and pay for their licence training and go. Then, all of a sudden, they would do that but then the student would leave, and so it was costing the company money that they did not want to lose. So it was, simply: you go and get the licence and come. So the student would go to wherever they could get it the easiest.

There are two systems within New South Wales currently: one is our HVCBA; and one is what they call HVDART. HVDART is Heavy Vehicle Driver and Rider Testing, which is conducted by currently Service NSW. There are two different criteria to get the same licence: a person comes to us under HVCBA. They get training and assessment. You go—

Senator GALLACHER: Sorry to butt in: so there is no visibility from an employer to know where these people got their training. They just see the qualification and they assume all the qualifications are the same.

Mr Burrows : All the qualifications are the same—absolutely. You have got a heavy rigid licence; it does not matter where it comes from.

Senator GALLACHER: So if I was an employer and I wanted to pick up 30 drivers, I could pick up 10 very well-trained ones, 10 not so well-trained ones and 10 untrained.

Mr Burrows : In general, yes.

Senator GALLACHER: And I would just take that risk as an employer that they would get from A to B—

Mr Burrows : Most employers at that level would then have their own in-house assessor and they would then assess those people or they would employ someone—an RTO or an assessor from around—to come and give an opinion of an assessment on that particular person.

Senator GALLACHER: So I have not got my wallet with me but, in my wallet, I have got an HC licence for Australia. I have not driven an truck for 26 years. I could go out and get a job?

Mr Burrows : And get NHC.

Senator GALLACHER: Well, that is a bit of a worry, isn't it? I am not Senator Sterle, because he does a week a year do keep himself in good nick.

Mr Burrows : The only place you cannot do that is in Western Australia and, if you do not use a licence for a number of years, it gets wound backwards.

Senator GALLACHER: It certainly poses a lot of questions. I have been told, particularly from Adelaide to Perth, by very experienced long-time operators that they are getting rounded up by people of an ethnic origin other than Australian. They are both speed-limited, and the other mob has asked them to back off before they get to a corner, because they did not calculate enough room to overtake. They are forcing vehicles off the road, because they just do not know how to drive, basically. This is a very common occurrence and, if you are a car coming the other way, it is not a pretty sight when two B-doubles are rumbling away towards you.

Mr Burrows : No. Those people, the ethnic people, as you refer to them—I look at it from my perspective. However, it would be so easy for them, in their application for their licence for somewhere, in New South Wales, at least, to have to sit the HVCBA assessment. With interest, you talk about MC and you have had the licence in your pocket for many years. A person who hits the age of 70 in New South Wales and who holds a multicombination licence must undertake a test to demonstrate proficiency in that vehicle. One would imagine that that test would be performed in a particular grade of vehicle, an MC. It could be up to 26 metres long and 64 tonnes. But it is not; it is undertaken in an HC—in an HC that is 42-tonnes and anything down to probably 15 metres long. At 70, surely to God, if someone decides this person needs their ability tested, could it be similar to someone driving an A380 and doing their test in a crop duster? It just should not happen. We in the HVCBA scheme—and I am told that RMS are investigating this possibility—should be the people to test that person in at least the same size and grade of vehicle, weighted to the 50 tonnes that it should be. But, no, they go in an HC vehicle at 70 years of age. I just don't get that.

CHAIR: I will recap now. What we do know is: fortunately, there are a lot of people out there trying to do the right thing; unfortunately, there are a number of ratbags who are not. Let us not forget, we have got a long way to go, because we still have exploitation of visa systems. There is absolutely no excuse for how foreign drivers—and I am not having a go at foreign workers—can come in here and, with no licence, get trained, get assessed, get their licence and then go work for major transport companies. We have had Scott's sitting here and, okay, they weren't clean on it. They have come out later, because of some grubby motivation from one of their depots who could get the bloody job done cheaper—that is what it was. That is my own little rant and I am not finished there, because I am sure they are not the only ones.

Mr Burrows, thank you very much for availing yourself today, and we appreciate you making the journey from wherever you have come in New South Wales to the nation's capital. I am going to conclude today's hearing. I am personally going to thank the witnesses who were before us today, the diligent hardworking secretariat and of course Hansard and broadcasting behind the screen, who do all the hard work behind the scenes that no-one sees. That concludes today's hearing. The committee now stands adjourned.

Committee adjourned at 17:55