P-PLATERS DRIVING TRUCKS: IS IT LEGAL?


P-Plate Drivers

So you’ve just passed your car licence and want to move straight on to the big rigs? We love your enthusiasm, and Australian road transport needs more of you. That’s why the industry understands the importance of revolutionising the way we think about trucks, and truck driving.

We can’t blame you for wanting to get behind the wheel at the moment, it’s an exciting time for our industry with demand set to grow exponentially in the coming decades.

In terms of the hardware, modern light-duty trucks have and continue to change dramatically, boasting even more grunt than their forebears while staying small, safe and as driveable as the family sedan.

World at your feet

Motorists have been allowed to drive anything with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) up to 4,500 kg on a car licence (including a provisional licence) for many years, but it is only fairly recently that this breed of new trucks have made the act of driving a truck an experience any age group can enjoy and master.

And yes, you read that correctly, even as a P-Plater you can drive a 4,500 kg GVM truck without sitting another test, giving you a perfect launch pad into the industry.

Without sacrificing any power, these trucks are lighter, more maneuverable and as safe as houses. There’s now a major focus on comfort  too, with all the luxuries and connectivity you would expect from a modern sedan, including all your Gen Y essentials.

Most importantly, they boast the payload, reliability and lifespan light rigid trucks are famous for.

These are just some of the reasons businesses are rapidly shifting from utilities and vans to trucks, and why (we’re guessing) you might be interested in driving one.

The good news is, just because you’re a P-Plater doesn’t mean you’re stuck in the passenger seat checking Facebook. Starting small helps your employment prospects and allows you to improve your driving skills while finding a stepping-stone to the bigger trucks.

What about the seriously big rigs?

While some heavy vehicle licences are achievable on your P-Plates, you’ll need to get cracking if you’re planning on driving, rather than catching, the bus home from school.

The legalities differ slightly for each state, but you can find details for your location on each state government’s website: ACTQLDNSWNTSATASVIC and WA.

In Victoria for example, provisional drivers can apply for truck-licences to drive light, medium and heavy-duty trucks assuming they meet the following criteria:

  • Light rigid (GVM between 4,500 & 8,000 kg): You must have held your car licence (your provisional licence counts) for 12 months.     
  • Medium rigid (GVM over 8,000 kg – two axles): You must have held a car licence for 12 months.
  • Heavy rigid (GVM over 8,000 kg – three axles): You must have held a car licence for 24 months.
  • Heavy combination (prime mover with single semi-trailer, GVM over 9,000 kg): You must have held a car licence for 24 months and a medium rigid or heavy rigid licence for 12 months. You must also complete a separate driver training course.
  • Multi combination (Any truck or trailer combination): You must have held a heavy rigid or combination licence for at least 12 months, plus the driver training course.

A different perspective

There are couple of significant advantages to getting younger blood behind the wheel of a truck.

Firstly, providing P-Platers with the opportunity to drive light-duty trucks makes them more valuable to your business and more employable in the long run. Crucially, you’ll also be doing your bit to help lower the national youth unemployment rate, which, at 12.3 per cent, still hovers at more than double the national average.

A younger workforce offers unparalleled choice and flexibility, especially for trades and smaller delivery and freight business owners. Yes, there’s less experience in the ranks, but there’s also an opportunity to mould and mentor younger drivers into a workforce that, beyond simply complying, ‘buys into’ your ideas and vision for your business.

And let’s not forget about the positive effect attracting younger drivers can have on the transport and logistics industry. After all, the industry is battling to combat an ageing workforce and a critical driver shortage. Tapping into another labour force beyond what has traditionally been the norm, can only be a good thing.

It’s an automatic choice

Its fair to say Australia has been slow in its take-up of two-pedal technology when it comes to commercial trucks. Our cousins in other advanced markets such as Europe and the United States had a far quicker transition away from labour and training intensive manual transmissions.

The efficiencies of a full automatic or automated manual transmission aside, this technology transition ultimately made life easier for drivers, especially those with urban runs.

Thankfully Australia has now caught up, with manufacturers continuing to develop and refine advanced gearboxes in order to keep pace with younger drivers getting their automatic licences at higher rates than ever before.

So if you’re operator choosing your next truck to be ready to work, spare a thought for what your workforce will be ready, willing and able to operate.

The finish line

While the industry has made driving a light truck as easy as possible, at the other end of the spectrum, driving a semi-trailer still calls for a highly-skilled and adept person behind the wheel – and requires suitable experience as a result.

If you’re a provisional licence holder and your employment requires you to drive a heavy vehicle, it’s still worth noting you can apply for a heavy vehicle licence exemption.

You must be able to prove you either have previous international experience driving a heavy vehicle, or the nature of your employment means the standard waiting times would cause you undue hardship. If you can, you may find yourself behind the wheel of a heavy-rigid after all.

For the majority of young, would-be truckers, starting at the bottom with your car licence is the perfect introduction. You get to experience the creature comforts of a car-like drive while learning the ropes in one of the safest trucks on the road.

If you’ve decided to drive a truck as a career – congrats, and welcome to the fold!
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