Details Of New Driver Licensing Framework Revealed

Mandated minimum training and assessment times and experience-based progression options – plus enhanced governance standards for training providers – will be rolled out over the next two years under a new National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework agreed to by Transport Ministers.

The landmark reforms were approved by the nation’s infrastructure and transport ministers in December 2023 and are designed to increase the safety and job‑readiness of heavy vehicle drivers.

In a recent presentation, Austroads General Manager Programs, Paul Davies, reveals the Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (D-RIS) presented to, and agreed to, by ministers includes a new requirement to have a heavy-combination (HC) licence before gaining a multi-combination (MC) licence.

This change, he adds, recognises the jump from heavy rigid (HR) to MC more than doubles vehicle length and gross mass limit for even the smaller, less complex MC class vehicles – a “significant increase in complexity of driving task”.

South Australian log and timber haulage company Fennell Forestry has been a pioneer of competency-based training. Photo: Alastair Brook, ROADBOSS Magazine, Q1 2024

Davies also reveals the new framework features strengthened training and assessment standards for all licence classes, including mandated minimum training program length and comprehensive competencies and assessment.

The mandated minimum training and assessment times will be 16-24 hours for rigids and 20-28 hours for combinations, including minimum ‘behind the wheel’ time of six-eight hours for rigids and eight-10 hours for combinations.

There will also be a requirement for four-eight hours of post-licence supervised driving within three months of obtaining a new or upgraded licence, dependent on class.

Additionally, Davies says ministers have agreed to strengthened training and assessment standards for all licence classes comprising more than 180 identified competency elements to be delivered via a mix of online, driving/yard, and classroom (see table below).

Table 1: New training and assessment standards will comprise more than 180 competency elements to be delivered via a mix of online, driving/yard, and classroom

These include modules on hazard perception testing and attitude and approach to the driving task.

In a welcome move, the new framework introduces experience-based progression pathways for driver licensing.

Under the first option, the supervision program pathway, drivers will be required to meet minimum overall experience times as well as minimum hours of work experience in a vehicle and minimum hours of supervision including behind-the-wheel driving.

Under this pathway, progression from MR or HR to MC could be achieved in as little as six months versus one-two years under the current system.

Table 2: The new drive competency framework introduces two experience-based progression pathways for driver licensing a supervision program pathway and a driving experience pathway

Conversely, under the driving experience pathway, operators will be required to meet minimum driving hours (600 hours over a minimum of 26 weeks for MC or HR to HC; and 700 hours over a minimum of 26 weeks for HC to MC).

The progression from MR/HR to HC will be cut in half under the experienced-based pathway (from 12 to six months); as will the progression from MR to MC (from two years to one year). The progression from HR to MC will remain at 12 months due to the new requirement to first obtained a HC licence.

Davies says that “for most drivers there will be pathways to progress more quickly than currently.”

He adds the introduction of minimum training program length will curtail “shortcuts based on commercial pressures”; while more comprehensive competencies and assessment will produce “more job-ready drivers”.

Table 3: The new drive competency framework introduces experience-based progression pathways for driver licensing which will cut in half progression times from one licence class to another

Importantly, the new framework also includes new governance and other requirements for training providers.

While each jurisdiction will continue to determine whether to offer insourced or outsourced assessment, and manage local providers, they will be required to do so based on nationally developed standards covering eligibility, trainer qualifications, audit tools etc.

This includes minimum course lengths, standardised national online content, and a training and assessment package to match new competencies to support consistent delivery (to be developed by Austroads).

Following in-principle support from ministers, Austroads is in the process of establishing a project team to lead the development of national policy to promote harmonised implementation, minimise rework, and support more efficient jurisdictional implementation. Early estimates are that the national work program will take two years to substantively complete.

For more information visit the Austroads website or contact Austroads at

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