Talking Turkey About Trucking

Darth Vader at the NTC

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.

Talking Turkey About Trucking

Jerking the chain

A review of the chain of responsibility rules and their enforcement is long overdue and the National Transport Commission (NTC) has released its draft proposals to improve the effectiveness of the Compliance and Enforcement laws, as they stand. As to whether the changes proposed will make any difference to life for the truckie, there’s another question. Perhaps we need to think a bit more out of the box to make it work?

Read more

IAP Review, have your say

The National Transport Commission have published a draft review of the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) and are calling for comments from the industry on the performance of the system so far. Read more

The floating tonne

A regulation allowing a floating tonne looks likely after the recent Ministerial Council on Transport and Infrastructure in Alice Springs. The floating tonne rule should allow for a one tonne mass to be transferred to a tri-axle group from other axle groups, as long as the overall vehicle mass does not exceed the limits for the vehicle operating under general mass limits.

 

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Ministers at the meeting agreed to the amendment and it is expected to be introduced into the Queensland Parliament as an amendment to the National Heavy Vehicle Law in the next few months, for implementation in the near future.

 

This Ministerial Council was the first since last December’s decision by the Council of Australian Governments to institute a new Council system to facilitate national reforms.

 

Other decisions effecting the move to national regulation was the approval of the corporate plan for the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator from 2014 to 2017 and finalising of the budget for the next financial year at the $135 million level agreed previously.

 

Ministers also agreed to look at getting closer to introducing electronic work diaries (EWD) and consider legislative drafting instructions at their next meeting in November, at which time a policy ids expected to be released by the National Transport Commission. Any EWD introduction is expected to be voluntary only.

 

The Council agreed jurisdictions will commence work to implement initial heavy vehicle investment and access reform measures. It will be looking into the possible next steps in heavy vehicle charging and investment reform at the next meeting. Policy will use the, recently completed, Heavy Vehicle Charging and Investment report into truck road charging. Mass/distance/location charging is likely to be near the top of the agenda with this reform.

 

Where does trucking stand after the budget?

After many days of claims, counter-claims, disinformation and general information overload, the picture around future taxation and funding affecting the trucking industry has become clearer. The news appears to be good with no major changes feared by the industry coming to fruition, for now! Read more

Give your feedback on the NHVAS

Here’s the chance for the trucking industry to give real feedback to the National Transport Commission as part of the review of truck maintenance accreditation systems. As reported on Dieselnews this week, there is a push to make the accreditation system tighter and more accountable, to ensure safer trucks are on the road. The assumption is, the current model is not working and a new way to ensure good maintenance and safety outcomes for trucks on the highway can be achieved.

The project to review heavy vehicle roadworthiness is being carried out by the NTC and the project team are now seeking industry input to improve the picture on how the NHVAS works at the coal face and how truck maintenance does, or does not, work under the current regime.

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According to the NTC, the survey consists of 26 questions and should take 10-15 minutes. NTC also assures those taking part their views will remain private, all the answers provided will be recorded anonymously and your personal details will not be published individually.

The people who will set the agenda for any change in the way truck maintenance is controlled are sitting in their ivory tower on Bourke Street in Melbourne. The trucking industry can put a dose of reality into their lives by participating in the short survey on the NTC website.

NHVAS review should be hard hitting says Retter

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is working together with the National Transport Commission to review the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) as part of something called the Heavy Vehicle Roadworthiness Program. This program is a first test of a new relationship between the two organisations and follows a memorandum of understanding between them. It also looks like it may lead to a major shake up in accreditation countrywide.

A review of the NHVAS has been on the agenda for sometime, since the NHVR took over responsibility for the scheme. The controversy surrounding the events of the Mona Vale tanker crash last year have served to further call into question the levels of maintenance in the truck fleet on Australia’s roads.

Although the official announcement plays the issue down as one of a regular regulatory review, the intention is clear and part of the recent friction between nationally based organisations, who have been given increased powers, and state government based bodies intent on retaining a power base in their state capitals. With federal politicians coming out and reiterating their support for the NHVR, in the light of recent issues, the tussle looks set to continue in this review.

 

“This really does go to the efficacy of all of the accreditation systems which are out there,” said Paul Retter, NTC CEO in Tamworth last weekend. “There are too many of them, we need one. We need to make sure they are robust, if you are going to have an accreditation system which provides a benefit, it’s got to be matched by good governance. Quite frankly, NHVAS maintenance, at the moment, is a joke. We need to fix it, and we will.

“This goes to a whole range of issues from the people who have been used to do the repair work. It goes to the equipment they have got. Whether they can pick up the things the RMS can pick up on the roads. There are a whole range of issues we need to look at as we go down this road.

“There are lots of views out there about what we should have as an accreditation system for heavy vehicles. My view is we should have one, it should have a range of modules, some core business, like maintenance and fatigue. We can add on other modules for guys dealing with livestock or other things. We need to rationalise this space, because the cost in time and money of being in five or six accreditation schemes is, to me, a nonsense.”

The trucking industry is to be consulted as the process of this review continues. However, the industry does not want to be the meat in the sandwich in the tension between federal and state authorities, as it has been during the recent permit issuing crisis. The intention needs to be clear, to set up a genuine single accreditation platform, with a national spread and with some credibility created by stringent controls.

Getting a result from the NHVR

At the point where the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is coming in for heavy criticism over the debacle caused by the botched handover of permit issuing duties from the states, a chink of light and a genuine improvement from the national law pops its head up. The timing may be just a bit too well planned, but the NHVR have announced truck drivers will no longer be legally obliged to carry proof of accreditation for mass or maintenance management schemes.

 

The NHVR have announced the Transport and Infrastructure Council has asked the National Transport Commission (NTC) to prepare an amendment to the Heavy Vehicle National Law, to remove clauses requiring drivers to carry documents proving enrolment in accreditation schemes.

 

Importantly, the NHVR has issued instructions for roadside officers to cease enforcing the requirement forthwith. It has informed the state and territory road transport authorities they are not to enforce sections 468 and 470(2)(b) of the national law, against drivers or operators, in relation to the carriage of documents for mass management or maintenance management.

 

The original instructions talked about issuing warnings until March 10 before enforcing the requirements but the NHVR now believes there is no safety issue arising and sees no merit in seeking to enforce these requirements until ministers and Parliament have had an opportunity to consider the proposed amendment.

 

The NHVR points out the rules for basic fatigue management (BFM) and advanced fatigue management (AFM) remain the same. Drivers must still carry and produce on demand all the relevant documents which show that they have been trained and inducted in these two safety-related management schemes.

 

This change may be the first tangible change truck drivers will notice, arising from the shift to the NHVR. It comes as a welcome relief for the regulator, which has been fielding flak from many directions as the permit issuing system remains in flux and trucking operators sit and wait for permission to move loads.

NTC call for feedback on chain of responsibility rules

A review, by the National Transport Commission, of the current chain of responsibility regulations has reached the stage where the NTC is calling for the transport industry to respond to a number of options for change to the COR rules. The introduction of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) was seen as the right time to get the COR rules tightened up and better aligned to the way the national WHS regime is regulated. Read more