Melham Leaves, Industry Connects, and North Australia and Melbourne Get Connected

In the news this week, from Diesel News, Chris Melham leaves, industry connects, and North Australia and Melbourne get connected with new road plans.

The Australian Trucking Association announced its Chief Executive Officer, Chris Melham will be leaving the ATA on October 14 to take up a new role in another leading industry association.

“On behalf of the ATA, I would like to thank Chris for his five years of service to the Australian trucking industry and the ATA,” said Noelene Watson, ATA Chair. “During his tenure with the ATA, Chris made significant gains in a number of areas including, reconnecting the Tasmanian Transport Association with the ATA, which secured a truly national voice for the Australian trucking industry with membership from every jurisdiction. Read more

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Setting Brakes Up Right

The need for workshops to get setting brakes up right for the trucking industry has been addressed in the latest Technical Advisory Procedure from the Australian Trucking Association. Effective brake adjustment setup and maintenance is vital for truck safety, reckons Chris Loose, the ATA’s Senior Engineering Adviser.

 

Setting Brakes Up Right

 

Loose was releasing the ATA’s new Technical Advisory Procedure on slack adjuster setup and compliance to the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual (NHVIM). The advisory procedure was developed by the ATA’s Industry Technical Council.

 

“Understanding the correct adjustment for slack adjusters is important to improving brake performance and having safer trucks on our roads,” said Loose. “We’ve seen longer stroke brake chambers become standard on a range of truck models over recent years, and it’s important that truck operators understand what version is fitted on their truck and how it should be set up and maintained.

 

“Getting the setup right will improve brake performance and improve safety.”

 

The new technical advisory procedure includes advice on chamber stroke and readjustment lengths, identification of stroke on the brake chamber end cap, brake chamber stroke length, and correct mounting of chambers with slack adjusters.

 

The procedure provides information on a stroke checking tool and examples of templates and guides for correct adjustment. The document also provides some supplier links for service, maintenance and correct setup.

 

“There is a range of suppliers of both manual and automatic slack adjusters, all with unique designs and methods of function,” said Loose. “It is important to buy the right quality of equipment built to the appropriate SAE standards, and to ensure they are regularly serviced and maintained.”

 

This is the latest in the ATA’s series of technical advisory procedures, which provide best practice guidance for trucking operators, maintainers and suppliers about key technical issues. The slack adjuster setup procedure is available on the ATA website. 

Remain Vigilant

Contract? What Contract?

This week the Australian Trucking Association put out a contract checklist and unfair contracts information, and many in the industry will cry, ‘Contract? What Contract?’. There is plenty of good information in here about what to look out for in transport contracts, which could help the smaller operator, but how many have an opportunity to negotiate any contract?

 

This has been how the system has worked, historically, the owner of the freight or the primary transport contractor tells the small trucking operator what they want done and how much they are going to pay. Then there is a shake of the hand and the deal is done. The big firm has got a cheap service and the trucking operator is left with an insecure business contract and massive overheads to provide the service.

 

This is the reality many of us have worked in over the years. Trucking people have to be risk takers, by their very nature, because if anything goes wrong they are going to go bust, end of story. Which other sector would live with the same kind of set of business ethics? Well, the building industry for starters, but conditions and contracts have become tighter over the years to protect the consumer, the house buyer.

 

There has not been the same pressure on road transport supply chains. The big company doling out the work is also the entity with the most market power. If it wants to be unreasonable, it can be and there is not a lot anyone can do about it, apart from walk away from the work and put the smaller business in jeopardy.

 

There are pressures on these big players to do the right thing, the chain of responsibility. The introduction of this, over ten years ago, was greeted by a flurry of activity among the big boys. The lawyers were coming up with contracts, where there had been handshakes in the past. The idea was to insulate the corporates from the implications of COR, if someone down the chain messed up.

 

This first flush of COR was followed by the realisation the authorities were not capable of creating the nightmare scenario, for the big players, of a road death being followed all the way up the chain to a decision in a capital city boardroom. Again we reverted to type and small operators continue to get bullied in order to keep on working.

 

There is some hope the revised COR rules and the changes to contract law which come into effect in November will help.  The protections will apply to businesses with fewer than 20 employees which agree to standard form contracts where the upfront price does not exceed either $300,000, or $1 million if the contract is for more than 12 months.

 

Let’s hope this is the case. However, this is still not going to be the magic bullet, because the sheer dynamics of these kinds of contracts mean they are almost always bound to be unfair.

 

Many companies look at their freight task and work out the parts of it where they can make good money. These they service themselves. Then they pick out the components of the task on which it would be possible to make some kind of profit. These are offered to favoured and reliable suppliers who will often get a decent enough contract.

 

Then we come to the rest of the task, the work which needs to get done to fulfil the requirements of the entire contract. This is where minimal profits can be made and small operators pick up the odds and ends and try to make it work, often without a real contract.

 

Is this kind of situation likely to change? Not much in the short term and many would doubt it will ever change without a firm crackdown on the decision makers at the top.

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Nominate an Apprentice

The Australian Trucking Association is asking workshops to appreciate their young workers and nominate an apprentice to receive a scholarship. Cummins South Pacific is now looking for young service technicians from Australian workshops to receive one of three scholarships to attend the 2016 Paccar & Dealer TMC in Melbourne on October 24-26.
Read more

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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”.