Editors Note - Qualifying argument | Dave McCoid

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Your captain today is Captain Bloggs, he’s the product of the new pilot training review scheme that reduces the time it takes to get to a full commercial pilot’s licence in order to help assist the ever-increasing pilot shortage. We know there’s been a spate of accidents lately but there were many circumstances contributing to those and rest assured, you’re in safe hands.” So, as a passenger, how would you feel about that announcement? I guess it’s a question the public may have to face shortly in regard to our industry. At the moment I’d expect it go down like a cup of cold sick. 

It ’s a classic case of the good old road transport industry not requiring a hangman to do the job on itself yet again; and it all comes back to perceived professionalism. Other professions, the ones who really believe they are professionals, even deep down inside would never discount the learning process required to achieve the qualification, regardless of whether they were in the midst of a ‘bad patch’. 

I have a close friend who lives in a small rural New Zealand town with a large volume of heavy trucks passing through, many with drivers who will have gained their licence through the current system. Every time I see her she tells me how she stands in the street most days and watches how many cell phones are clamped to ears as the trucks roll through. That ’s essentially brazen flouting of the law in public by those who are supposed to be setting the driving benchmark. I’ll say it again, these are the people in society charged with operating the largest moving object allowed free rein in the public arena, the people we are attempting to convince the public are professionals, and a job we’re trying to convince people to enter or tell their kids to consider. 
It ’s awful because when she raises it with me I have no defence. There can be no defence. 

The ease of entry is obviously creating an issue around perceptions of the career, from both within the industry and from outside, and in far too many individuals, an apathetic approach to execution. The process required to drive a truck obviously doesn’t instil the same sense of worth and integrity in the heart of those qualifying for the job as it does in other occupations, so why would our associations be trumpeting the benefits of streamlining the heavy vehicle licencing process? What we need at the moment is obviously a more rigorous and better quality process. A recognised, national qualification that sets a benchmark across the industry regardless of where you live and what you do – like a pilot, lawyer, or electrician. Maybe we need a rating system. Driving a log truck on a narrow country road requires different skills from taking a curtain-side vehicle on a Turangi swap. 

Why do we not hear constant feedback from those flying our flag on the pressure being brought to bear on government to recognise job of truck driving as a true qualification, so improving the value proposition the job offers? At the moment the education service providers operating within the industry are behaving much like the industry, all peddling their own thing, without uniformity, wasting resources on duplicity of investment, charging a myriad of rates, and to what end? You will never find a more passionate truck advocate than me, but we have to start building a qualifying framework that means practitioners take it seriously, are remunerated in a way that reflects their skills and knowledge, and prompts the public to respect us for who we are. Lauding the dilution of the one, seemingly ineffectual, statutory document of qualification we do have is like pulling the trapdoor on the hangman’s gallows yourself. 

 Dave McCoid