Better safe than sorry
Obtaining a dangerous goods (DG) category professional driving permit (PrDP – D) can be a lengthy, confusing and often laborious process. But these stringent requirements exist for good reason: owing to the dangers involved, drivers of dangerous goods vehicles have to be reliable and well trained.
Attaining a category DG professional driving permit is not an easy process. In fact, it is by far the hardest permit to acquire. A potential driver must be at least 25 years old, cannot have a criminal record, must undergo a medical examination and must be in possession of a certificate that shows that he/she has undergone the relevant training at an Dept of Transport approved training provider, before even being allowed to apply.
And it doesn’t end there. Once they have the permit, they have to undergo annual refresher training and renew their license and Professional Drivers Permit (PrDP – D) every second year. So acquiring – and keeping – a category DG permit can seem unnecessarily difficult. Quite simply, is receiving training every year, and renewing a licence every two years, really necessary?
While it might seem like an unnecessary hassle, there is a very good reason why these regulations should exist: they save lives. Dangerous goods transportation is a hazardous process; and placing an untrained, irresponsible person behind the wheel of a dangerous goods vehicle is reckless and unsafe.
“Drivers have a tremendous responsibility,” explains William Goibaiyer, dangerous goods advisor and consultant for Hazchemwize, a company that specialises in dangerous goods training and consultation. “Not only can they often prevent an accident by acting appropriately, they can also greatly limit the amount of damage caused by an accident by responding quickly and intelligently when something goes wrong.”
By law, drivers of dangerous goods vehicles are personally accountable if an accident occurs and it is discovered that they did not comply with every aspect of the law. Because of this, they have to undergo training regarding every aspect of dangerous goods transportation. They have to know what to do before, during and after every trip involving the conveyance of dangerous goods.
“Drivers have to understand the entire process. They have to be able to inspect their vehicle before leaving, know which documents to keep in the vehicle, be aware of what behaviour is expected en route, and, most importantly, know exactly how to react in an emergency,” asserts Goibaiyer.
Aware of the importance of preparing drivers adequately, Hazchemwize offers Dept of Transport approved and TETA accredited training courses that equip drivers for this responsibility in a practical manner. “Awarding someone with a certificate is not enough; you have to really prepare them for the job. And because of this, we make it as practical as possible. We physically show them how to do everything,” says Goibaiyer.
And additional annual training is just as important. “Training needs to be continuous. Technology and legislation change constantly and drivers have to be kept abreast of the latest developments,” asserts Goibaiyer.
But simply conveying information doesn’t ensure that someone will act appropriately. Operators have to view training not as an exercise in obtaining a licence, but as a valuable process that can save lives and prevent incidents involving dangerous goods.
In order to aid conscientious operators, Hazchemwize tries to make its training as practical and relevant as possible. But ultimately, the company would like to see legislation go beyond basic training.
“We would like to see the everyday behaviour of drivers assessed and improved. To really make a difference, one has to change the fundamental behaviour of drivers in their normal environment. This includes everything from emergency response to basic nutrition. Operators have to assist drivers and show them how to improve their performance. By doing something small – teaching them to take regular breaks and keep their blood sugar level constant, for instance – accidents can be reduced,” concludes Goibaiyer.