Industry Insights

CFA Proposes New Driving Training Program

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) is the first port of call for many outback fire emergencies in Victoria, and they are relied on to get to the fire emergency quickly and safely.

In line with CFA’s commitment to safety, CFA has announced their plan to roll out a new state driving program that will look at updating the current CFA driver training program, putting in place a higher level of safety standards, especially for volunteers.

Glenn Jennings, CFA’s Commander (State Driving Coordinator), emphasises how important this upgrade in training is, “CFA [has given] a commitment to improve our driver education and provide a safer environment for our drivers, and also for the communities.

“We have been working for a number of years on this program, which is quite complex.

“And exciting progress in this space will see training available for our people, ensuring they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to safely drive and operate CFA vehicles.”

Risk stratification

A result of the new program will see the CFA go with a two-tiered approach, splitting their brigades into two groups, according to risk and activity. The first group will comprise brigades in categories 1 and 2, which function in lower risk environments; the second group will comprise brigades in categories 3, 4 and 5, which function in higher risk areas, such as busier and more urban areas.

National standards across the board

Since 1972, it has been a requirement for only CFA staff to undertake a driving course to meet the national standard. But with the dangers accompanying the job, as well as a rise in volunteers and their now pivotal role in aiding the CFA, it has become more significant for volunteers to also operate at the same level.

An Isuzu FSR 750 for the CFA. Photo credit: Keith Pakenham, CFA.

Under the new driver training program updates, the two brigade groups will be required to undergo national competency training to ensure both CFA volunteers and staff are operating at the national standard, driving the vehicles under safe conditions, as per road rules, legislation and CFA policy.

Additionally, brigades in categories 1 and 2 will go through a one-day course that will help them understand legislation and the Chief Officer’s standard operating procedures. This one-day course will also include a presentation about driver behaviour and attitude, and provide strategies for CFA staff and volunteers to ensure they drive in safe environment.

As for brigades in categories 3, 4 and 5, national competencies will be a standard requirement for all, but CFA is still in the process of determining what the operational requirements for off-road driving will be.

When will the changes take effect?

Although there is still no fixed time frame for the rollout of the new program at this stage, all CFA volunteers and staff will be kept up to date. And according to Mr Jennings, CFA is also doing an audit of CFA volunteer driving instructors to determine how many have the appropriate training to be both trainers and assessors.

Program works ahead

Pushback can come with retraining, which CFA understands.

“Yes, there is going to be some opposition. Driving is a very emotive subject and everyone wonders why should they need to go do something [like this when] they already hold a licence.

“However, the CFA course will have participants come away learning updates to road rules,” Mr Jennings shared.

CFA is also making the training program more accessible for those who can’t attend in person.

Mr Jennings explained, “In the coming months, there will be an online presentation available where members can work their way through the presentation and undertake the formal assessment, which will then be recognised on their training record.

“With the new proposed changes, we’ll provide more opportunities than what we did previously, to make it a little bit easier for everybody.

“And those who have skills from outside the organisation that can be transferred across, we’ll be recognising those.”

In addition to the training updates, CFA will continue to focus on legislation changes from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and in the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) rules, which particularly concern driver fatigue and driver records. CFA will continue to communicate changes to their members.

The full video on CFA’s proposed changes to their driver training program is available here.

Program and regulation changes can be difficult to keep track of, such as changes to CFA’s driver training program, and changes in Chain of Responsibility (CoR)… But we’re here to make it easier for you. For more information on CoR changes, have a quick read of the must-knows.