License Review Needed

The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee has heard a call for a comprehensive review of the truck driver licensing system. The Australian Trucking Association’s National Manager Government Relations and Policy, Bill McKinley called for a review of truck driver licence training and assessment in his evidence at the Aspects of Road Safety in Australia Senate inquiry.

 

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Reflecting the attitude in Canberra to matters surrounding the trucking industry, McKinley made his comments in a sparsely populated Senate Enquiry room, with just two Senators in situ and another ringing in online.

 

“At the moment, the quality of training and assessment is highly variable,” said McKinley. “There are many excellent trainers, but others train to a price or guarantee how long the course will take, regardless of how competent you are at the end of it.

 

“Operators are particularly concerned about the variable quality of training in chain of responsibility, load restraint, fatigue management and work health and safety. What we need for heavy vehicle driver licensing is a common set of standards that the states or the NHVR apply. The standards need to be imposed by a body that is responsive to feedback.

 

“At the same time, at the regulation of providers side, we need a common national system where registered training organisations deliver the training packages they’re supposed to deliver.

 

“[In our view], the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Minister for Education and Training should convene a joint review with the states of the training, assessment and licensing arrangements for truck drivers generally. This review should explore including these arrangements within the scope of the Heavy Vehicle National Law for the states that are part of that system.”

 

The ATA are also recommending a review of the provisions allowing overseas licence holders to drive in Australia.

 

“The rules should firstly require overseas licence holders to obtain an Australian licence within a year, even if they are only in Australia temporarily,” said McKinley. “At present, every state except the NT allows temporary visitors to drive on their overseas licence indefinitely. This could be for years.

 

“Secondly, there should also be consistent provisions about what happens when an overseas licence holder fails a driving test. In three states at the moment, it’s possible for an overseas licence holder to apply for an Australian drivers licence, go to the driving test, fail, and then keep driving on their overseas licence, even though they just demonstrated conclusively that they are not competent to drive in Australia.

 

“Finally, overseas licence holders who do not hold an Australian heavy vehicle licence should be banned from driving heavy vehicles for any commercial or occupational purpose. An overseas licence holder should be able to drive a motorhome around Australia, but driving a heavy vehicle for commercial purposes should not be allowed.”

 

The ATA provided the committee with a detailed review of the states’ arrangements for managing overseas drivers licence holders. 

Change at the Top in Queensland

The Queensland Trucking association has announced the resignation of its CEO, to take place later this year. Peter Garske had tendered his resignation to the QTA’s Board of Directors Meeting held on February 9.

“The QTA Board of Directors has accepted Peter’s resignation acknowledging his significant contribution across 20 years of service to the Board and the Association’s members” said Ben Almond, QTA President. “The date of effect will be determined by a process of advertising, recruitment and transition of an appointee to replace him as Chief Executive Officer of the Association.” Read more

Award Nominations

Nominations are open for a number of industry awards. The Australian Trucking Association has announced it is seeking names to go forward for its 2016 National Trucking Industry Awards. NSW’s Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association is also looking for nominations for its Young Driver of the Year for 2016.

 

The Trucking Industry Awards are presented to acknowledge the achievements of individuals and organisations in all fields of endeavour throughout the road freight transport industry. The gongs to be awarded include: Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Trucking Industry, National Trucking Industry Woman of the Year; and National Professional Driver of the Year. Nominations must be received by March 21 2016.

 

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“As an industry, we have a great number of dedicated, passionate people who go the extra mile to make sure Australia’s goods are moved in a safe, professional manner,” said Chris Melham, ATA CEO. “But despite working long hours and overcoming great challenges, they often don’t put themselves forward for reward or recognition.

 

“The National Trucking Industry Awards are our opportunity to acknowledge the hard work going on behind the scenes in the trucking industry, and give our quiet heroes the credit they deserve. There are also great prizes, with an international travel package and cash prizes to be won.

 

“If you know someone who deserves to be acknowledged for their efforts on behalf of the industry, I urge you to take the time to nominate them at the website.

 

The awards will be presented on June 25 on the Gold Coast at a gala dinner sponsored by the ATA’s Foundation Sponsors: BP Australia, National Transport Insurance and Volvo Group Australia. The dinner is part of Trucking Australia 2016. Two more awards, the Don Watson Memorial Award and the TruckSafe John Kelly Memorial Award will also be presented on the night.

 

To make a nomination, go to the awards website. For more information about Trucking Australia 2016 or to purchase a ticket for the awards night, go to the ATA Website.

 

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Last Year’s Nominees for LBCA Young Driver of the Year

 

Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association President, Jock Carter, has announced the LBCA is seeking nominations for Young Driver of the Year for 2016. Nominations are open until 22 January 2016. The award will be presented at the annual Livestock and Bulk Carriers Conference at Mount Panorama, Bathurst on March 4-5 2016.

 

The award winner must demonstrate a best practice approach to driving and safety. The award includes a $5,000 trip to the USA.

 

“The award winner will be a role model for the rural transport industry and will help to promote rural transport as a viable, long-term career choice for young people,” said Carter. “Without rural transporters, Australia’s farm produce couldn’t get from the farm to the table. The job of driving trucks is a lot more challenging than people realise. With an ageing workforce, the industry needs to make steps to encourage younger drivers to take up a worthwhile profession”.

 

“The young driver award recognises our top young drivers and showcases their commitment to safety and best practice.  It’s something we should all strive to achieve and be proud of.”

 

Nomination forms and further information are available from the LBCA secretariat. Tel: 02 6230 6290 or email: office@lbca.org.au

Ravaglioli Commercial Vehicle Wireless Mobile Column Lifts

Trucks, Dogs and Brakes

Two initiatives from the Australian Trucking Association are looking at truck and dog safety as well as brake component reliability. The ATA has published a revised and updated version of its truck and dog Technical Advisory Procedure (TAP) and also warned against the use of non-identical brake parts across axles with a new Safety Alert. 

 

 

The truck and dog TAP provides best practice advice for achieving dynamic stability with these combinations. This is a key safety issue for all trucking operators, but, in the past, little guidance was available for optimising truck and dog combinations.

 

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“Under the Australian Design Rules, the truck and towed dog trailer are assessed as two separate vehicles, which may then be put together into a truck and dog combination,” said Chris Melham, ATA CEO. “While completely legal, this means that operators may not receive guidance on how they can optimise the safety and stability of these combinations.

 

“This advisory procedure provides step-by-step instructions and formulas to help operators improve the overall performance, dynamic stability and safety of their truck and dog combinations. The formulas cover five different common truck and dog combinations between 42.5 and 50 tonne Gross Combination Mass. In general, the formulas promote longer wheelbases for both the truck and trailer, reducing coupling offset, and lowering the combination’s centre of gravity.”

 

The TAP was developed by the ATA’s Industry Technical Council, which includes operators and suppliers with leading expertise in truck technology. It is the latest in a number of TAPs, which provide best practice guidance for trucking operators, maintainers and suppliers about key technical issues. The procedures are available for free from the ATA’s online resource library.

 

Brakes

 

The warning against the use of non-identical brake parts across axles responds to multiple reports to the ATA’s Industry Technical Council about replacement brake parts on an axle which may not be identical to the original, causing an imbalance.

 

“Any variation in componentry from left to right within the axle’s brake groups, even the brand and age of component, will negatively impact brake balance,” the document says.

 

The alert also cautions workshop staff to identify models which use long stroke brake chambers to avoid the possibility of accidentally pairing a long stroke chamber with a normal chamber.

 

This is the fourth Safety Alert published by the ATA. Each alert is publicly available from the ATA’s online resource library.  New alerts will be released as issues come to the ATA’s attention.

 

Talking Turkey About Trucking

He Who Pays the Piper…

The next round of registration charges will be announced sometime in the New Year and will be greeted with more criticism and complaints. Yet again, the Ministers, both State and Federal, responsible for signing off on the next set of registration charge increases, have backed away from fairness and decided to continue with an inequitable formula for calculating what truck operators should pay.

 

The current situation is a mess. Each year the National Transport Commission gets to play the bad guy and use the inaccurate figures in a flawed formula to come up with another set of registration charges which will overcharge trucking, with no prospect of compensation.

 

Of course, this is not the NTC’s fault. The system was put into place many years ago and the complications introduced with the introduction of the Road User Charge don’t make it any easier. The road transport operator gets a rebate on diesel but pays rego charges for each vehicle, the idea is for the sum total raised to match the funds required by the government to keep our roads in the pristine condition they were in to begin with.

 

This assumes we are content with the infrastructure provided to us for the transportation of goods, the life blood of our economy. We are far from content with the infrastructure and then have the further insult of being charged more than the original developers of the formula envisaged. The system assumes there are fewer trucks on the road than there are in actuality.

 

At the recent meeting of the transport ministers in Adelaide, the NTC had come up with some alternatives, whereby some redress for the trucking industry could have been had. However, this would have meant the state and federal purse foregoing some funds.

 

Therefore, we are overcharged and the ministers decide this year is not the year to introduce fairness into the system. We will leave that for a while longer, during which time we will have to figure out a more equitable system.

 

As ATA CEO, Chris Melham, pointed out this week, there is a mechanism whereby a certain amount of fairness can be reintroduced into the system. In a statement this week, he referred to the Australian Government’s response to the Competition Policy Review (the Harper Review).

 

“Establishing an independent economic regulator, such as the Access and Pricing Regulator proposed in the Harper Review, would help ensure that governments could not ignore pricing decisions like this in the future,” said Chris.

 

In its response to the Harper Review, the Australian Government has said it was willing to consider resuming competition policy payments to the states and territories. This latest straw for the industry to clutch onto may or may not eventuate. Whatever system finally appears, it will be a long time before it becomes a reality.

 

There has been pressure for a long time, by government departments, to take Australia down the mass/distance/location charging route. In this system, each operator pays an amount based on the number of kilometres at a certain tonnage and over a particular route, the truck travelled.

 

This may appear to be scrupulously fair. The more your truck wears out the road, the more you pay. It is also a pain to levy in the current circumstances. The situation would be similar to the fuel tax nightmare US truck operators have lived with, where the driver has to record how many miles they have travelled in each state, every day.

 

Of course, all of this recording will be a lot easier when all of our trucks are wired into the internet and compiling data which is true and accurate, and able to be made available to the authorities. Although many trucks, especially in the big fleets, are already wired and recording, the amount of time to will take to get everyone on board is too long to wait for a more equitable system.

 

It is unlikely the transport ministers are going to walk away from a transparently unfair system, which nets them more money. Rational argument will be answered with a promise to come up with a charging system using electronics in the future, unless severe pressure is put upon the powers that be, to make amends for this rip-off.

Getting a Fair Go

Many of the contracts entered into by trucking companies are unfair and do not, necessarily, meet all legal requirements. The Australian Trucking Association has said it plans to develop guidance for trucking operators and their customers to help ensure fairer and legal contracts.

 

According to the ATA, the decision is a response to the lengthening payment terms faced by many trucking businesses, as well as concerns many smaller trucking businesses feel they lack the power to negotiate balanced contracts with their customers.

 

Some small trucking operators will find themselves signing whatever piece of paper is required to get a job, without being in a position to weigh up what the contract could mean for the financial and operational aspects of their business.

 

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“We know there’s sometimes a perception in trucking that if the wheels are turning, you’re all good,” said Chris Melham, ATA CEO. “But failing to examine the terms of a contract can lead to businesses taking on risks that should belong to customers, signing contracts with flawed chain of responsibility stipulations, or accepting payment terms they don’t have the cash flow to support.

 

“The ATA will develop a best-practice checklist for trucking industry contracts, which will be launched at Trucking Australia 2016. The detailed checklist and guidance material will be available exclusively to members of ATA member associations. Businesses will be able to use the material as they consider appropriate, they will not be required to use it.

 

“With information like this, there’s never been a better time to join an ATA member association and get a valuable range of member services.”

 

To develop the checklist, the ATA is going to ask trucking operators to nominate the contract areas that they find especially problematic. The ATA says it will also establish a new business standards reference group to provide detailed advice on contract and commercial practices in the industry.

 

The ATA also intends to lobby the Australian Government to improve the availability of information about the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission requirements for trucking operators, including the requirements of the unfair contracts legislation set to come into effect next year.

 

Talking Turkey About Trucking

If it’s Broke, Don’t Fix It

The latest communique from the fourth meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council turns out to be much like the ‘Curate’s Egg’, that is, good in parts. There are some encouraging signs in the decisions by the assembled transport ministers of Australia, but the industry is to remain overcharged for rego. Read more

Shane Wants You To Tell a Mate 

Pushing Out Payments

Trucking company cash flow is likely to come under increased pressure as big freight customers extend their payment terms. According to the Australian Trucking Association, trucking operators supplying BHP Billiton and other large companies, who plan on pushing out their payment terms must be aware of the effects of these extended terms on their businesses.

 

Chris Melham, ATA CEO, put out a statement referring to media reports talking about BHP Billiton extending payment terms from 30 days to 60 days, but said the warning applied to any operator faced with a supplier looking to stretch payment terms.

 

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“Trucking operators must assess whether they will have sufficient cash flow to support extended payment terms, not just in the first year but in every year of the contract,” said Melham. “Operators that agree to extended payment terms still need to pay their own creditors on their existing cycles , for example, this could include 21 day payments to fuel suppliers, 30 day payments to small owner-driver subcontractors, and weekly or fortnightly payroll payments.

 

“Rather than just signing a new contract with extended payment terms, the ATA urges all affected operators to examine their contracts and seek professional advice. At its meeting next week, the ATA Council will consider a plan for the ATA to increase its focus on business-to-business issues in response to growing concerns about the trend towards longer payment times, as well as other problematic terms in trucking industry contracts.”

 

Concerns over extended payment terms have been raised throughout the year, with the transport companies affected unable to use any leverage with their, often much larger, customers to get relief from the financial pressure.

 

Some are advocating taking the issue to the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and demonstrating how the extension of payment terms puts pressure on safety, as operators get squeezed between non-paying customers and suppliers demanding payment.

 

The idea of going to the RSRT would be anathema to many in the industry. The Transport Workers Union would regard such a move as a political victory. However, the financial pressures may get even higher for the average operator, forcing them to take desperate measures.

Overcharging may continue

The trucking industry may continue to be over charged for the use of Australia’s road infrastructure. The meeting of the Australian Transport and Infrastructure Ministerial Council takes place today with a number of big ticket items on the agenda. As the nation’s transport ministers gather in Adelaide, they are set to consider the determination of the level of fuel-based road user charge and vehicle registration charges. Read more

Talking Turkey About Trucking

Pulling Together

Sometimes you just don’t the right words at the right time. This was certainly the case for me, earlier this week, as I stood on the stage at the ATA Technical and Maintenance Conference dinner to receive an award for my work in trying to improve the way the trucking industry is perceived by the general public.

 

The presentation came as a complete surprise to me and I am not one of those people who can reel off a speech at the drop of a hat, or in my case the dropping of a camera. So, I would like to use this weeks column to make up for being lost for words on the podium.

 

Much of the impetus for writing these columns comes from a love of the trucking industry, and its people. This is an industry with which I have spent most of my life. I began truck driving in 1977 and haven’t been able to get away from it ever since.

 

Most of us in trucking complain about the way the industry works and how we are constantly frustrated by ridiculous rules or working in unpleasant conditions. However, once it gets into your blood, you can’t walk away from it. There is something about the culture which cannot be found in any other line of work.

 

Over the years, you develop a kind of loyalty to the industry and all of the other members of your tribe. Yes, we have rivalries and enemies within the industry, but we will defend the industry, as a whole, to outsiders.

 

Moving from actual truck operating and driving, back in 2002, across to writing about the industry, initially felt like leaving the trucking industry and joining the media. In fact, I soon realised I had become even more involved with the industry I loved.

 

Working at Owner Driver and ATN kept me very much in touch with the realities of the industry and also gave me an opportunity to take the lessons learned during my career in trucking and apply them in getting information out there which was relevant to operators and drivers still working at the coal face.

 

It was the two mentors I had at the time, Paul Sullivan, then Editor of ATN and Andrew Stewart, its publisher, who encouraged me to take my experience on the road and apply it to the stories I was producing for Owner Driver and ATN.

 

Many years later, I got the opportunity to take over the editorship of Diesel magazine from, a well known industry character, Steve Brooks. He also encouraged me and eased me into the role, reassuring me to go with my instincts when putting together a story for the magazine.

 

This opportunity came along as a result of the confidence shown in me by my current boss, John Murphy, from Prime Creative Media. On handing me the job of Editor, he simply asked that Diesel reflect the trucking industry, its culture and for me to maintain my positive attitude to the trucking industry and identify the issues I thought were important.

 

I hope I have done a good job and served the industry which has given me such a broad experience, a lot of laughs and some tears. It is all down to those people who have helped me on my way, and the many others who live and breath trucking, like myself.