Governance is possible only with assistance. A single wheel does not move.
LTCOL Robinson’s article Slow Down, provides insights into the changing nature of road operations within Defence and our efforts to improve the governance assurance framework for ‘road or land worthiness‘, including the increasing use of technology such as telematics and simulation. These efforts also include ensuring that B vehicle driver training is delivered in a safe and effective manner, producing capable vehicle operators with the adequate skills, attitude and knowledge to professionally operate today’s modern fleet of B vehicles. Overall I strongly agree with LTCOL Robinson’s valid and constructive points throughout the article and he makes some excellent conclusions and recommendations. Therefore, I would like to focus my response on the specific area of driver training, including how the Army School of Transport (AST) is seeking to provide more assistance to units across Australia.
As the current CO of AST, I would like to clarify and reinforce a couple of points related to driver training. While I strongly concur with LTCOL Robinson’s positive comments around the standard of driver training at AST, only a small percentage of licence acquisition is delivered by AST instructors. The students trained by AST‘s dedicated and professional instructional team, in either Puckapunyal, Amberley or Townsville (the latter in the Maritime and Cargo space), will undoubtedly leave having received a high standard of quality training that is fully governed by dedicated standards cells and delivered utilising bespoke instructors, facilities and training areas. However, of Army’s annual driver licences and proficiencies issued, those delivered by AST instructors only equate to around 1500 (or 16%). The remaining licenses and proficiencies awarded (over 8,000 or 84% of the total) are exported by AST as the Implement Authority, for individual units to deliver as the Implement Agent. As we are all too aware, there are limited low tempo periods in any stage of the Force Generation Cycle (FGC) and unit driver training is but one of many deliverables that units are required to achieve throughout the Training Year (TY). To assist Army units in the safe and effective delivery of driver training there is a specific governance and assurance framework in place. Yet, in my 18 months in command of AST, I have observed units regularly failing to adhere to policy.
Part of AST’s remit as the Training Authority is to audit all exported driver training. The team and I spend considerable time on this task. Unfortunately, we routinely uncover examples of non-compliance and unsafe practices. Army currently has a number of driver courses cancelled, and qualifications withdrawn from instructors, due to non-compliance with procedures designed to safely govern our exported driver training. Arguably, for much of the ADF, road movement is the one common activity that places life, and reputation, at highest risk. By failing to adhere to the assurance framework, units and commanders are placing unnecessary risk on equipment, soldiers, civilians and the reputation of the ADF. It is therefore the Chain of Command's responsibility to ensure that driver training is viewed in the same vein as any high risk activity and that it is executed using the ‘crawl, walk, run’ mentality. Commanders at all levels need to provide robust leadership over these activities to enable the delivery of appropriate and safe training for our soldiers. On occasion, upon speaking to units about irregularities in exported driver training it is apparent that some COs have not been aware that driver training is occurring in their unit or that they personally are ultimately responsible for the safe and effective delivery of that training. Instructors are also regularly tasked with completing their primary role and extra regimental duties as well as conducting driver training responsibilities concurrently, with little or no supervision.
In an attempt to improve the quality and effectiveness of driver training I was tasked by COMD FORCOMD in mid-2018 to review the Army’s Driver Training System. The review ultimately focussed on priority Lines Of Effort (LOE): governance and assurance of exported training is one of these. Many recommendations were subsequently made through the review; some have been undertaken in other parts of Army and some are not currently affordable. One priority initiative, which is being implemented with endorsement from COMD FORCOMD, is the establishment of Regional Driver Training and Safety Teams (RDTST) in Army’s main regional locations. These RDTST will provide the administrative and governance functions over the majority of exported driver licencing training, allowing units to focus on their own internal training and force generation. The teams will establish course programs for their regional areas based on the demand for licencing requirements, provide course managers and lead instructors for dedicated oversight, facilitate instructor mentoring for unit Training Support Request (TSR) staff, and assist with driver training policy advice – essentially a satellite Chief Driving Instructor (CDI) Cell. The number of TSR from units will be limited, as instructors will be supplemented by dedicated civilian contractors and Army Reserve components in each region to deliver the required driver training. Rather than unit members being required to provide ad-hoc training internally, once fully established, units can simply panel members on to already programmed courses. Further details of the review and the progress AST is making is available on the AST Sharepoint Page (only available on the DPN).
The first team to be established will be in the Townsville region from January 2020, with training to commence from July 2020. Work is currently underway to enable the team to be accommodated within Lavarack Barracks as a regional asset.
We are all striving towards the same outcome – to provide Army with professional and capable soldiers through safe and effective training. A plea from AST to all those delivering exported B vehicle driver training: please ensure that you are aware of what your responsibilities are, understand the basic policy and procedures governing driver training, and ensure those delivering training on your behalf are provided the required support and are conducting the training appropriately. We all understand the pressures of governance in all roles. However, if we don’t get driver training right it can have serious consequences on our culture and reputation as a Defence Force through damage to equipment, injury, or ultimately loss of life to our own personnel or civilians. Adherence to the governance and assurance frameworks around our training systems is one way of providing evidence that while we train as we fight (and training for war has associated risks), overall our training is first class and, ultimately, safe.