By the time we get to the ATA conference in March, the trucking industry will have seen a lot of changes in the past year or so, among the people representing stakeholders. A large proportion of those representing the transport industry in industry associations, as well as those heading the important government agencies and organisations we deal with, are part of leadership changes. Read more
The headlines out of the recent meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council in Launceston in Tasmania were all about the issues the ministers needed to be seen doing something about, tightening up vehicle maintenance accreditation. Read more
The worthiness of trucks on the road is a hot issue for not only trucking operators, but also the regulators and government departments tasked to keep the industry compliant and the highways safe. It would seem a change in the way the road worthiness of a truck has been assessed and monitored is going to have a substantial change in the next few years. Read more
Sometimes it is just choosing your battles and the timing of them which achieves results. Getting the target or the timing wrong and you send the incorrect message and miss your target. The submission by the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) to the joint National Transport Commission/National Heavy Vehicle Regulator heavy vehicle roadworthiness review sets out to attack a direct competitor, sending out the wrong message, if progress is the aim. Read more
The Australian trucking industry has been very patient with the Performance Based Standards (PBS) system for some time. A new discussion paper released by the National Transport Commission is looking at ways to extend the benefits, in terms of increased payload capacity, to non-PBS vehicles with the same specification.
The Discussion Paper aims to get industry and regulator feedback on how this extension of productivity benefits could be achieved and see PBS achieve the kind of improved outcomes promised when it was initially set up. Read more
Fatal truck crashes in recent times have concentrated attention on the assessment and maintenance of heavy trucks. The National Transport Commission and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator are going through a process of developing how roadworthiness will work in the future. They are now asking industry for its feedback and suggestions on how to improve roadworthiness outcomes.
The first phase of the process was the release of a report outlining the issues. This concluded the situation was far from ideal and left a lot to be desired. See the Diesel News report at the time.
“At this stage, data collection methods do not yield sufficient, reliable data to reach a conclusive determination about whether the NHVAS provides an effective mechanism for achieving road safety outcomes relative to its objectives,” said the report.
This week the NTC and NHVR have released the second of the two reports on Australia’s current roadworthiness systems.
“We’ve now completed the second step in the four-stage process of this program,” said Paul Retter, NTC CEO. “The NTC and NHVR have identified areas for short-term and long-term potential reforms. We’re now calling for submissions from industry and the community on the best way to improve heavy vehicle roadworthiness and make our nation’s roads safer.”
The second phase report identifies a number of improvements needed:
A clear definition of roadworthiness
Better education and training, particularly in relation to operators’ responsibilities
Chain of responsibility duties designed to improve the roadworthiness of heavy vehicles
A standardised ‘second party’ inspection system
Clearer arrangements for when and how defects are issued, and cleared
Robust accreditation and safety management systems, particularly to strengthen the NHVAS audit system
At this stage the NTC and NHVR need expert submissions to get feedback on how these aims can be reached. The trucking industry’s workshops are filled with people with hands on experience with both trucks and the, sometimes, unworkable accreditation systems. They will have to work with any new system which emerges and need to put ideas up for scrutiny now before the bureaucrats tie the trucking industry up in even more ineffective red tape.
“Release of these reports is a springboard to the next and possibly most critical stage of the Roadworthiness Program, where we consult with industry and start to shape recommendations based on industry feedback,” said Sal Petroccitto.
“I encourage anyone interested in better safety outcomes for the heavy vehicle industry to take the time to read the reports and get involved. Road safety professionals and transport company fleet managers should particularly study the concepts of ‘defence in depth’ which are presented in this paper as a model for assessing the integrity of the current national roadworthiness system.”
Feedback will be included in the Regulatory Impact Statement for consideration by Australia’s transport ministers, to be put forward in November. This will be followed by further consultation before the final changes are made to the current regime.
Submissions must be in by September 26, following which there will be national consultation on the final proposed improvements and changes.
The introduction of electronic work diaries is set to see the arrival of an eight minute period of grace, an allowance for miscalculation by the driver in each 24 hour period. Paul Retter, CEOP of the National Transport Commission has been explaining the consequences of the proposed rule in his message this week.
“Truck drivers who choose to use an EWD instead of a paper based diary won’t be fined for small, low-risk breaches of less than eight minutes,” said Retter. “This new eight minute rule will not apply to rest time and drivers will have a total of eight minutes across a 24 hour period, starting from a major rest break.
“This means a driver who exceeds work time by five minutes in the first period of work may only exceed work time by up to three minutes for the rest of that 24-hour period, unless the driver makes up for the five minutes at a later time in that day. This is intended to make it impractical to deliberately schedule the additional eight minutes as work time.”
This allowance has been brought in to reflect the current situation, in the work diary, where drivers record working and resting periods in 15 minute blocks. The EWD will record the precise time when the driver changes over from rest to work, to the minute.
The NTC suggest the introduction of the EWD will free up driver time, normally spent filling out work diaries. Whether the eight minutes leeway is going to be sufficient is difficult to assess. If truck drivers find the limits of exact time keeping, even with an eight minute buffer, difficult to handle, there may resistance to migrating across to the new technology.
When the fine was handed down for Lennons Transport, the $1.3 million amount was heralded by the NSW Roads and Freight Minister’s press department as, “Toughest truck compliance and enforcement regime in Australia secures historic fine.” Read more
The National Transport Commission (NTC) and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has issued the first phase in the ‘Heavy Vehicle Roadworthiness Report of Current Practice’. The report goes into lengthy descriptions of how the different ways of ensuring safe trucks on our roads work, but one of the points it returns to is the fact, none of the current ways the different states monitor truck maintenance work particularly well.
An issue it does mention, without commenting on, is the variation, state by state, in the way truck maintenance is regulated. Surprisingly, for a combined effort from two national bodies which espouse the idea of a single national standard for the trucking industry, they fail to hit home the obvious point, a single way of regulating maintenance across Australia would benefit everyone, except the bureaucrats in the various state capitals. Many fleets move from state to state and have depots around the country, the simple act of trying to remain compliant with the plethora of different rules diverts resources from simply keeping the trucks well maintained.
The National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) is damned with faint praise by the report. The NHVAS is the baby of the state regulators and, as such, can get in the way of truly national regulation of maintenance. It may be the same for everyone but is policed in a myriad of ways in the states. The NHVR and NTC hold back from out right criticism of NHVAS but the message is not good.
“At this stage, data collection methods do not yield sufficient, reliable data to reach a conclusive determination about whether the NHVAS provides an effective mechanism for achieving road safety outcomes relative to its objectives,” says the report.
The question of how the auditing process works has always been a grey area for the NHVAS and the provisions of the National Heavy Vehicle Law (NHVL), which the NHVR is set up to administer, does not help the improvement of secure auditing outcomes.
“The HVNL contains provisions allowing for the recognition of auditors, but provisions for the governance, accountability or liability of auditors are not included in the legislation nor the NHVAS Business Rules which set out the high level policies and process for the Scheme,” says the report.
Here is a recommendation the trucking industry needs to push for in the lead up to the second phase of this reporting process, get the law sorted out! The second phase will include how to move forward from the current regime to improve outcomes. This is where the trucking industry needs to speak with one voice and push for the kind of reform we must have, or we will remain the whipping boys, in terms of truck safety, for the enforcement agencies.
Most agree accreditation is the way forward, but the only way accreditation actually works is if it has credibility. This is the touchstone for all of the various accreditation schemes around the country, for some more than others. Credible auditing and transparent maintenance regimes breed confidence. When credibility is lacking the kind of actions by the NSW RMS in the wake of the Cootes tanker accident are always going to happen.
Roadside enforcement will harass a truckie at the roadside even if all of the certificates for all manner of things are present and correct. The result, antipathy and downright aggression between the two parties. Complain about harassment and the authorities can rightly point to transgressions by other operators with similar accreditation. Get the accreditation right at the ground level so it is as watertight as possible then roadside enforcement will have to back off and concentrate on the ones they should really be after, the cowboys who are out there taking the piss out of us all!
Comments attributed to the CEO of the National Transport Commission (NTC), Paul Retter, this week, have him saying, “I’ll be like Darth Vader entering the arena”. This kind of talk is not out of character as earlier this year, at the LBCA Conference in Tamworth, he talked about NHVAS maintenance being a joke which the NTC needs to fix.
This is the kind of talk needed from someone in his position. We have been hedging around these issues for too long and now it’s about time the truth was told and the issues faced head-on. The issue where Retter plans to do his Darth Vader impersonation is on access for higher mass vehicles and the intransigence of the road managers.
Retter can’t do this on his own. As he says, “I’ll need industry’s help to do this because, trust me, this is cultural change 101 when it comes to road infrastructure managers.” What is needed is dropping the petty rivalries. Industry, policy makers and regulators need to demand a sensible approach from the protectors of OUR infrastructure.
This is all about getting the road managers to take on a new philosophy and a risk based approach to access for trucks. In the past, calculations were done, bridges assessed and a formula used to work out mass and dimension rules for a particular road. The arithmetic included an assumption trucks would be way overloaded on some occasions and was also a very conservative estimate of the stress any road would come under.
The world has changed, there is onboard mass monitoring on each axle and systems guaranteeing no overloading on set routes. However, the calculations are still done the same way with a unsustainable margin for error. The way Retter sees it the process needs to work in the opposite direction. Access should be a given unless there is evidence to the contrary. The default setting should be yes, unless there’s a good reason why it should be no.
NatRoad CEO, Chris Melham has come out this week in support, “The NTC is right in calling for a risk-based approach to road asset use and maintenance. Realistic and practical solutions need to be found that deliver to the community the efficiency and productivity benefits that improved access can provide.”
In fact, everyone with an interest in this subject has an incentive to get the way we look at access changed. For trucking it is a matter of much improved productivity, for the NTC this productivity increase is part of their KPIs, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator needs to show it has some rational control of access and state government’s life would be much easier if they put the road managers back in their box.
Can we get this up? Why not? A single rational approach, with trucking demonstrating a united, responsible approach would give the law makers something to work with. We get our house in order and we will leave the road managers without a leg to stand on in their dogged opposition to progress.
Progress has to come, a crisis in infrastructure availability, and consequently the economy, is looming. Let’s get in there and be part of the solution, plus, get vastly increased productivity as part of the bargain. Retter is talking the kind of talk trucking needs to hear, we need to get involved and help him make it happen.