Remain Vigilant

Truckweek is a Great Idea

There is no doubt Truckweek is a great idea and worth supporting as best you can. Anything which improves the profile of the trucking industry and paints it in a positive light has to be good for all of us involved in the transport.


From its beginnings in the early nineties, it was all about the genuine enthusiasts getting out on the street and showing their community what a great industry trucking is and how the vast majority involved are good responsible citizens. It was a chance to show off an industry which seems to be invisible to the general public.


Despite thousands of trucks on every road in the country at all times of the day and night, no-one seems to notice. That is, until something goes wrong. The only time anything truck related seems to make it into the consciousness of Joe Public is when a truck tips over on their local roundabout or they feel intimidated by a B-double overtaking them on a freeway.


This cloak of invisibility we all seem to work under is going to be difficult to shift. It may have been useful for Harry Potter at Hogwarts, but not being seen most of the time is a distinct disadvantage for the trucking industry.


Road transport needs to be seen as it delivers all of the goods at the back door of Coles and Woolworths in your local shopping centre. The lowly banana has made a massive voyage from the paddock to the packing shed, out of the tropics in a truck, into specialist warehousing and then out again on the trip to the local supermarket.


We need to be visible making the wheels of industry turn, ensuring the coke arrives at the steelworks and the resulting steel arrives at the site where the general public’s home is getting built. The timber used in the same build has been dragged out of forests on trucks, down to the sawmill. The finished timber has made its way to the other end of the country on the back of another truck, before getting unloaded on site.


The Australian economy depends on goods entering and leaving the country. Road transport is a vital link in getting minerals and what manufactured goods we do make onto ships or planes and out of the country. We also pulls containers full of fridges and mountain bikes out of the ports and into the retail system.


It should be our task to show the people of Australia how vitally every aspect of their lives are intertwined deeply with trucks and trucking. If we don’t they will continue to be of the opinion their children should not go into the transport industry because it is a low status dirty job done by slobs in blue singlets and thongs.


The whole idea of Truckweek was borne out of a crisis. At the time, the industry was on the brink of being hit with unfair draconian legislation and being the government’s whipping boy when it came to road safety. Horrendous accidents and a slipshod attitude to safety were an issue and truckies had to return to public favour or be legislated out of existence.


Now, we are in another crisis. The population working in road transport is ageing fast, very few young people would ever consider working in trucking. At the same time suburban communities in the big cities want trucks off their streets.


Couple this with a freight task which keeps on rising at a multiple of economic growth. Yes, higher productivity may solve some issues,but it cannot solve them all. We need the person on the street to love us and appreciate we make their lifestyle possible, by making sure what they want is where they want, when they want it. All we have to do is tell them about it!

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Increased Visibility for Trucks

A meeting in Canberra has seen increased visibility for trucks on the agenda. Experts in the field came together to discuss a range of technical areas for review with a focus on improving safety through increased visibility for trucks.


The Australian Trucking Association’s Industry Technical Council meeting saw a focus on the Heavy Vehicle Visibility Technical Advisory Procedure (TAP). The document aims to inform the trucking industry about the significant safety benefits of applying high visibility marking to the side and rear of trucks.


Increased Visibility for Trucks


This TAP is being updated by the ATA together with industry representatives and will provide voluntary guidance to increase visibility on roads, along with the performance, ideal placement and recommended material specifications for the markings.


One study by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on the effectiveness of retroreflective tape on heavy trailers has shown improved truck visibility in low light scenarios can reduce rear end collisions by 41 per cent and side collisions by 37 per cent. 


“These road safety benefits illustrate how important these markings are, and we strongly advise that all truck owners consider adhering to a higher level of lighting and reflector requirements,” said Chris Loose, ATA Senior Engineering Adviser.


ITC also discussed the next issue of the ATA’s Truck Impact Chart, which is now progressing to the final stage of approval by the ITC. The chart highlights how Higher Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV) not only have a lower impact on roads per tonne of freight moved, but also have significant safety and environmental benefits.


Increased Visibility for Trucks


“The case for investing in modern higher productivity vehicles speaks for itself,” said Loose. “Not only is there evidence showing that the emissions are further reduced, but road crash data from Austroads shows significant safety benefits for all road users from fewer larger trucks on the roads and the highly advanced safety technology found in these vehicles.”

Playing Politics with Safety

Are we playing politics with safety and really taking the whole issue of safety in the trucking industry seriously enough? This is an important question for everyone involved in road transport, not just for those out there spruiking their own agendas. Read more

Remain Vigilant

RSRT on Tour

There is currently a tour of Australia taking place, organised by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) to look into the effects of the recent introduction and then repealing of the the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. The events of early April, when the trucking industry’s issues were actually discussed on prime time television, have now passed and the clean up continues.


Have we learned anything from the experience, or are we all going return to our bunkers and go through the same circular arguments of the past? Hopefully we have learned something and won’t make the same mistakes again. However, the evidence is not strong history won’t repeat itself.


The tour is already underway. The inquiry has already had a couple of meetings, in Adelaide and Perth. The roving inquiry will be coming to a town near you, or quite a long way away, over the coming weeks. The dates and venues can be found on the ASBFEO website.


The quotation we need to think about is, ‘Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it’. The whole business from the first introduction of the idea of a RSRT through to the rushed repeal of the legislation was a bit of a schmozzle.


What happens during a schmozzle? Those who are at the extremes of opinion have a field day. The ordinary punter gets frustrated and angry, and then drifts towards the stakeholders who are making the most noise, even if they are not making much sense.


The trucking industry seems to think the whole RSRT issue is over. Judging by the response to the discussion site created by the ASBFEO, specifically, to talk about the effect of the RSRT, nobody’s interested. There have been no ideas posted, to date.


The Australian Trucking Association is trying to drum up interest, putting out media statements in advance of each of the ASBFEO events to remind stakeholders there is an opportunity to get their opinion out there and into the system.


Perhaps we have become complacent, think it’s all going away and won’t come back. That’s not what Transport Workers Union National Secretary, Tony Sheldon thinks. He has come out this week with an article in Independent Australia, which makes a number of valid points about the way the issue is being treated and what the politicians are saying.


He makes a reasoned argument when he talks about the pressures some drivers are under to break the rules and the danger to road safety, and those working in the industry, this constitutes. Overblown claims about 50,000 owner drivers going out of business immediately were just that, overblown, and he uses this to slam the government. Other misinformed comments further weaken the credibility of the case against the return of some form of safe rates regulation.


If the trucking industry wants to get to the point where it can do business without unnecessary regulation and red tape, it needs to demonstrate it can run a safe and responsible industry without any new regulation. It can’t just let the status quo continue and think it will always be thus, it won’t.


If we are out there trying to drive change, pushing for tougher chain of responsibility enforcement, refusing to have anything to do with those who openly flout the law, but who get away with it because no-one else wants the work, then the law makers will see an improving situation in a problem area and leave it alone.


If, however, there are stakeholders out there expressing extreme views, on either side of the argument, then the issue will look like one which needs an imposed solution, another beast like the RSRT.


At discussions like those being organised by the ASBFEO this month we need the sensible operator with reasoned arguments to come to the fore. Another quote comes to mind, this time from Edmund Burke and perhaps a little dramatic, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’.

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New Board Members for TruckSafe

The changes to the board of TruckSafe, announced this week, will see three new faces involved in the management of the TruckSafe accreditation scheme. The TruckSafe accreditation program welcomed three industry leaders to its Board at its recent meeting in Goulburn. Stephen Marley will continue as TruckSafe Chair.

“Safe vehicles, comprehensive management systems and effective driver training are essential to run a safe, professional and viable transport business,” said Marley. “I’m delighted to continue as Chair, particularly with TruckSafe celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.” Read more

Restructure for Simon

Simon National Carriers has announced several changes to its executive team. Long time CEO of the company, David Simon, has stepped up to a newly created position of Executive Chairman, while a new CEO has been appointed, Clive Barrett.


According to a statement by Simon, the changes are intended to lead the company into its next phase of growth and development, which will include an expansion in the range of services they have traditionally provided to their customers.


David Simon, when speaking as Chairman of the ATA
David Simon, when speaking as Chairman of the ATA


After 20 years as the day to day boss, David Simon’s new role will see him concentrate on developing the future strategy for the business, working with the board and the newly appointed CEO.


“Whilst I will continue to be active in various aspects of the business, the day to day management of the business will from now on be handled by our new CEO.” said Simon. “My time as CEO has been extremely rewarding and I have thoroughly enjoyed the interaction I have had with our valued customers who have grown with us over our 50 year history.


“I’d like to acknowledge the support of my executive team over the years and particularly when they stepped up and allowed me to take significant time away from the business during my term as Chair of the Australian Trucking Association. I’d like to express my sincere thanks to each and all of you.”


Clive Barrett commenced in the role, of CEO, on May 24. Simon stated he has had a long and successful career in supply chain management in Australia and overseas. He was also Joint COO of Laura Ashley in the UK (a leading UK high street retailer) and then CEO of Metrojaya Bhd Sdn, a department store group in Malaysia. He and his wife returned to Australia in 2012.


New Simon CEO, Clive Barrett
New Simon CEO, Clive Barrett


According to the statement, Barrett is known for being customer focused and for the work he has done in optimising the supply chains of many blue chip companies.


“I’m delighted to be joining Simon National Carriers,” said Barrett. “I’ve known the company for more than 25 years, and have had a great deal of respect for the specialised services and reputation the company has established over many years. The company’s focus on safety and compliance is also impressive and a benchmark for the industry.


“In my new role I look forward to working with David and the management team in steering the business in its next phase of growth and development”.

Talking Turkey About Trucking

Setting The Standard

We have a arrived at a fortunate moment in the development of a truly responsible trucking industry. There is an opportunity to make a real difference and change the paradigm in the way road transport is run and policed. Get it wrong and we will return to the dark ages, get it right and there can be some real gains.

The situation at the moment sees the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator with enough credibility with the Transport Ministers in the States and Canberra to be able to try and drive some real effective change. It has the momentum, for now, to get some of the recalcitrant states and their delaying tactics, put back in their box. Read more

RSRT Impact Enquiry

This week owner-truck drivers together with representatives from associated industry groups met in Canberra at a roundtable convened by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO). The meeting was part of the initial scoping work as the ASBFEO begin the formal inquiry process exploring the impact the RSRT’s Payments Order has had on small business owner-drivers around the country. Read more

Talking Turkey About Trucking

How Safe Can We Get?

There has been a lot of talk about safety in the trucking industry recently. Most of its was stimulated by the close call with and the impending, if Labor win, return of the RSRT. This threat, and threat it is, has got everyone reading from the same page on truck safety.


There are a number of different directions this strategy is taking. Each is designed to demonstrate either actual or provable future improvements in safety outcomes. This will be reflected in the fatality figures in accidents involving heavy vehicles.


Note, we are not talking about the fatal accidents where trucks are at fault, simply when there is a fatality and a truck is involved. The argument has to be about this figure, because it’s the best metric we have. A combination of poor compilation of statistics and incompatible interstate stats, mean we don’t have a definitive figure on how many people die each year as a direct result of a failure by the trucking community.


We are stuck with this number, and it is the number being touted by the supporters of the RSRT. The other number which gets a regular outing is how much more dangerous it is to work in the trucking industry than it is in things like forestry and mining.


Of course it’s more dangerous, people in trucks have to interact with the general public in their own cars, completely oblivious of the size and speed of the trucks around them. Behind the wheel of a truck, the driver has to keep themselves safe plus compensate for the lack of skill, knowledge and anticipation of everyone else on the road.


If mining equipment had to work in close proximity to the population in the big cities, who thought they had the right to weave in and out of the equipment in order to get to work on time, mining would be a very dangerous profession. Of course, they don’t, mining is a dangerous industrial activity which takes place in a controlled environment well away from major population centres on private land.


All of this means nothing, the perception is that trucks are monsters which go around killing people. They are not thought of as the only way the population of Australia could enjoy the comfort and convenience of their current lifestyle. Society’s dependance on trucks is always discounted.


The answer is the trucking industry has to get safer, as measured by the figures which are already biased against us, and in an environment where all of the other participants are irresponsible, but can’t be blamed for fatalities, because they are the electorate.


What is amazing is how well our industry has done, even in the metrics which are adversely weighted. The Australian Trucking Association published figures this week demonstrating a reduction in fatal articulated truck crashes of 80 per cent between 1982 and 2015.


Very impressive figures, which are unlikely to get much of a run in the general media. They go against the narrative so can be quietly ignored. Let’s hope, if the RSRT debate returns, we are able to get facts like these into the general media in a timely manner.


However, it’s not enough. The trucking industry’s commitment to safety has to be stated and reinforced over and over again. Hence, the call for the mandating of stability control in the trucking industry. The figure quoted by the ATA is a 25 per cent fall in fatal heavy vehicle crashes, saving 67 lives.


The period around an election is always fraught and big ticket items like this are always going to be brought up and held up as the way forward. In fact, the changes which will have the biggest impact are unlikely to get much publicity.


Waiting in the wings is the promise of improved safety outcomes from the planned improved roadworthiness program and reform of the accreditation system. This is unlikely to get much airplay in the election noise.


If we want to save lives and improve the perception of the trucking industry, we need to embark on a campaign to educate the public about living with trucks. They need to be brought up to speed, quite literally, with what a truck can do and what it can’t. Easy to say, hard to do.


As a final aside, a real change to the in-service braking regulations for trucks and trailers, without the current compromises built in, could solve a lot of issues in one low-key fell swoop.

Access Connect for Permits

Permitless PBS Truck and Dogs

An announcement by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will mean operators running many of the PBS truck and dog combinations will no longer need permits. The NHVR released Australia’s first gazette Notice for PBS truck and dog combinations.




The Notice will replace the need for state based permits for heavy vehicle combinations comprising of a three or four-axle truck, towing a three, four or five-axle dog trailer.


“The network will slash red tape for trucking operators, by removing the need for the trucking industry to apply for and later renew some 1,500 permits,” said Chris Melham, Australian Trucking Association CEO. “It will also encourage more operators to use these high productivity vehicles.


“The network is an example of how the NHVR is working with industry to reduce compliance costs. There’s a lot more to do, but any day when 1,500 pieces of unnecessary government paperwork gets scrapped is a good day.”


NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay congratulated NHVR and RMS on the Notice and said it’s a big win for NSW trucking operators who will no longer be required to obtain individual access permits.


“The change removes around 300 permits in the state, it is a common sense improvement that supports the NSW Government’s commitment of making it easier for trucking companies to do business,” said Gay. “Since 2011, the NSW Government has made it our priority to cut red tape and increase access, with more than 95 per cent of state roads now open to higher mass limits for vehicles operating under this Notice.”


PBS truck and dog operators working at Concessional Mass Limits will benefit from increased access on the NSW network, gaining use of 25/26 metre B-Double routes without the requirement for IAP. IAP remains a requirement for vehicles operating at Higher Mass Limits.


NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto said the Regulator had co-designed the Notice following detailed consultation with state and local government representatives.


“Encouraging industry with better access for newer, safer, high-productivity vehicles means less trips and that’s a good outcome for all road users,” said Petroccitto. “These vehicles are delivering safer transport while a higher degree of access certainty will improve efficiency and improve productivity for operators.We’ll continue to work with road managers across the country to expand this network.”


The NHVR points out in its statement, PBS Vehicle Approval will continue to be needed. For more information visit the NHVR website.