How to become a truck driver in Australia?
A truck driver earns a living transporting goods and materials by driving a truck. Truck drivers are licensed workers who drive heavy vehicles, tankers, trucks, and 16-wheel tractor-trailers to transport goods, food, automobiles, materials, and cargo across the country. This makes them an essential part of the overall supply chain. Truck drivers often travel to and from retail and distribution centres or manufacturing plants to deliver various products. They can transport a range of goods, from raw materials to livestock, depending on their employer’s specialised trade. The primary responsibilities of a truck driver may vary depending on the length of their journey. Generally, a journey starts with the truck driver helping the loading crew to safely pack the goods into the back of the truck. They also need to perform basic vehicle inspection, quality checks, vehicle maintenance, and weight estimation to ensure the safe transportation of goods to the destination. Truck drivers follow safety guidelines to ensure the safe handling, loading, unloading, and separating of dangerous goods throughout their work. A truck driver’s daily duties also include filling out paperwork. This requires drivers to sign off trucks, confirm deliveries and keep a log of their hours on the road.
All truck drivers require a clean driving licence along with unique, truck-specific qualifications from a registered training organisation. This ensures that truck drivers are competent in driving heavy-duty vehicles. While formal qualifications aren’t necessary to work as a Truck Driver, you will need to have the appropriate licence level for your State or Territory to drive certain classes of vehicles. A state-issued truck and heavy vehicle license along with a medical examination is required to become a truck driver in Australia. A Certificate III or IV in Driving Operations at TAFE or local RTO is also helpful.
There are five different classifications that determine which type of truck you can legally drive. The classes are as follows:
- Light rigid
- Medium rigid
- Heavy rigid
- Heavy combination
After obtaining you driver’s licence, you need to continue progressing to the next class. To progress to the next class of vehicle, you generally need to have held your current licence class for at least a year. This means it will take a minimum of 5 years after obtaining your class C licence to be fully qualified to drive any class of vehicle.
Step by Step Guide to becoming a truck driver
Start learning to drive and obtain a class C license as soon as possible. In most states this process takes around 4 years, and you can start once you turn 16.
Continue with licence progression. You need to start by obtaining at least a Light Rigid Driver’s Licence (LR) – this lets you drive trucks up to 8 tonnes in mass with a towing trailer that’s no heavier than 9 tonnes. You can apply for a Heavy Rigid Driver’s Licence (HR) once you’ve held your LR for at least two years. This ensures that you have enough experience driving trucks in Australia to operate heavier vehicles.
Once you’ve held your HR for a year, you can apply for a Heavy Combination Driver’s Licence (HC). The highest licence class is the Multi Combination Driver’s Licence (MC), which allows you to operate any road-registered vehicle without restriction.
To get your heavy truck licence and work as a truckie in Australia, you’ll need to pass the Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment (HVCBA). Most registered truck driving training organisations conduct the HVCBA test, and you can apply for this qualification on their websites. Alternatively, you can search HVCBA test with your location to find a registered training company near you. Roads and Maritime Services accredits an assessor to conduct these assessments under a variety of driving conditions to ensure optimal road safety and truck knowledge.
You’ll also need to pass an eye exam and pass the knowledge test for your licence class. So, if you’re applying for your HR, you’ll need to pass the HR knowledge test.
You may need to take additional tests. Prospective employers in the trucking industry are likely to have their own unique tests and regulations as part of their application process. Routine testing may occur considering any advancements or conduct changes within truck driving. You can also apply for a truck driving apprenticeship to receive professional, hands-on training from experts.
You’re able to apply for full-time work once you have gained the necessary qualifications. You can look for jobs online to find position openings for truck drivers. You can also consult with recruitment agencies or contact trucking companies directly through email and telephone.
Skills that help Truck Drivers succeed
Listed below are a range of skills that you may want to develop to become a successful truck driver:
- Communication – Truck driving requires strong communication skills for efficient interactions with loading crews and customers. It’s essential that you can deliver great customer service as you represent your employer. Engaging in professional, polite, and helpful communication reflects well on you and your company.
- Time management – As a truck driver, one of your major responsibilities is to deliver goods to the correct destination at the right time, which means keeping a tight time schedule. Having good time management skills enables you to accurately estimate how long a journey might take, while considering external factors that can cause delays, such as weather and traffic. This ensures that you can reach a destination on time without causing yourself extra stress or compromising your road safety.
- Stress management – Unexpected problems can often arise when driving a truck, which can test your patience and problem-solving skills. These include road accidents, truck maintenance issues and road closures. Being able to effectively manage your stress helps with problem-solving as well as your mental health, which in turn, keeps you focused on the road.
- Fast reflexes – As a truck driver, having fast reflexes is essential for road safety. Being able to respond quickly to other drivers, adverse weather or unforeseen road closures can ensure your goods make it to their destination on time.
- Focused – Being focused is essential for being a safe and successful truck driver, where your concentration varies between driving, conversations, and mapping. Remaining focused on the road ahead while balancing other tasks is efficient and time effective. A lack of sleep and nutritious food can greatly affect your ability to focus, impacting your safety as a truck driver.
Visa options For Truck Drivers in Australia for Foreigners
The shortage of skilled truck drivers has become a significant concern in Australia. The country is looking to recruit overseas truck drivers to address this concern. You can obtain a visa to live and work as a truck driver in Australia. Several visa options are available for overseas truck drivers, including the 189, 190, or 491 visas and a working holiday visa. However, you must note that each visa has a specific restriction on the kind of work, the level of work, or the location where you can perform your job. The 189 visa has no limitations; the 190 visa comes with a temporary location-related restriction, student visas have a maximum work hour-related restriction, and, in some visas, you can only work for that employer who has sponsored your visa. Overseas applicants must obtain a positive skills assessment that shows they have the equivalent Australian truck driving training and qualifications to work in this role.
There’s plenty of work for anyone who wants to learn to drive a truck and become a truck driver in Australia. The investment in getting a heavy truck licence is well worth it given the opportunities. Truck drivers can work as self-employed contractors as well as for transportation companies, dispatching agencies, or commercial fleets. They have a flexible schedule as they can work any hours of the day or night. Despite the flexibility, they have a demanding career that requires them to spend a lot of time on the road.