Unfortunately, working in the trucking industry, we are destined to always be living in ‘interesting times’. There has never been a time in living memory when people involved in road transport haven’t been lurching from one potential crisis to the next. It’s in the industry’s DNA, the tendency to wait until a problem gets big enough to take drastic action to solve the issue. It’s a bit like the way many of the more traditional truckies run their business. Read more
The Australian Trucking Association has elected a new Chair, Noelene Watson, who is the managing Director of refrigerated transport operator, Don Watson Transport. She takes over from David Simon, who steps down after four years in the role. Read more
The shock resignation of the CEO of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator last week has further set back the prospects of a national regulator for the road transport industry. This is not a crisis but it could become one if the trucking industry doesn’t co-operate with and aid the fledgling regulator to get up and running. Read more
A long needed link in the transport chain in Sydney is to go ahead, as the NSW Government has reached an agreement with Transurban and the Westlink M7 shareholders to deliver the project they are calling the NorthConnex motorway. The road consists of twin nine kilometre tunnels to link the freeway heading south from Newcastle to the M2 and its connections into the Sydney motorway system.
“NorthConnex will significantly ease traffic congestion in Sydney by taking up to 5,000 trucks a day off Pennant Hills Road, while vehicles using the tunnel will bypass 21 sets of traffic lights,” said NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. “This link will provide a continuous motorway between the Hunter and Central Coast and Western and South Western Sydney and be a quicker alternative for journeys between the Central Coast, Hunter and Sydney’s CBD.
“NorthConnex will make it possible to travel by road from Newcastle to Canberra and Melbourne without encountering a single traffic light. We are building for the future by constructing the tunnel with a capacity for three lanes of traffic each way. The more efficient movement of freight will deliver major benefits to the Australian and NSW economies.”
This major road development comes at a high cost, around $3 billion, of which the Federal and NSW Governments are stumping up around $405 million each. The rest of the funding comes from tolls to be charged to those using the tunnels. Tolling levels are predicted to be similar to those already being charged on Sydney’s M2. This will work out to be around $18 each for trucks, for a 15 minute trip time saving.
In order to make this work, the NSW Government is going to have to put severe mass restrictions on trucks travelling on the, now free running, Pennant Hills Road and avoiding paying tolls. There will have to be ongoing crackdowns on toll-dodgers to make the tunnels economically viable as the authorities will have no easy way to assess whether any truck has a right to be on some roads for genuine delivery purposes, or are just saving $20.
The project now goes to the planning stage with community consultation and a formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) expected to be available for comment by mid 2014.
In a statement from Bruce Baird, Chairman of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), the resignation of the regulator’s CEO, Richard Hancock, has been accepted. The resignation has immediate effect.The reason quoted in the announcement is Hancock is leaving for personal and family health reasons.
Chief Financial Officer and General Manager, Corporate Services, Melinda Bailey, will take on the responsibility of Acting Chief Executive of the NHVR until a permanent replacement is announced, says the announcement.
Richard Hancock had become a familiar face around the trucking industry in recent years. First as Project CEO for the NHVR, and then taking on the role of CEO when the NHVR came into existence. His time in the role has been characterised by his great efforts to improve communication.
Hancock has appeared at numerous conferences, other industry gatherings and development workshops over the past few years. His open speaking style and willingness to field difficult questions gained him a lot of friends in the trucking industry.
Recent months have seen a great deal of pressure build on the NHVR and, consequently on its most visible representative and CEO. Several false starts at the outset of the NHVR were followed by a delay in the introduction of national permitting. When the permit system did come on line, it was immediately in crisis with a massive backlog developing in the first feqw days of operation.
The implications of the problems were bound to take a toll on Hancock personally, and on his family. Clearly, the stress of the current situation has made his continuance in the role impossible.
Diesel News wishes Richard well in any future role he takes up and hopes his openness, and willingness to talk to the stakeholders involved, will set an example for others heading up organisations dealing with the trucking industry to follow.
This country music ad campaign by the NSW Government aims to reduce texting by drivers and has been launched by the NSW Minister for Roads and Ports, Duncan Gay. The next stage of the ‘Get Your Hand Off It’ road safety campaign on mobile phone distraction now has three different ads, featuring three different musical genres, to get the ‘no texting while driving’ message across.
“It’s been hugely successful in sparking awareness of the risks. Our first You Tube video featuring Derek received more than 620,000 hits before being expanded to mainstream media,” said Gay at the ad launch. “I’m delighted to launch new country, rock and hip hop clips, that will also become our next TV and radio advertisements. These new videos continue to follow Derek’s misadventures as he crashes his car while Instagramming his latte.”
So here are the other genres, depending on your personal music choice:
This is the original ad, launched last year, which set the ‘Get your hands off it’ ball rolling:
Many in the industry may have suspected there was something fishy about the tsunami of permit applications which hit the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator on February 10, the first day of operation of the national permitting system. Anecdotal evidence seemed to point to a slowing down of the permit processing system at a state level in the lead up to the handover of responsibility to the NHVR in Brisbane. However, nobody was willing to put their head above the parapet and suggest such skullduggery took place.
Then up pops the ever reliable Duncan Gay, NSW Roads Minister, to imply some jurisdictions may have used this ploy to disrupt the smooth transition over to a national system in an effort to keep state control of the heavy vehicle regulatory system. The disarming Mr Gay tells us, the RMS in NSW would have had nothing to do with this kind of behaviour and have a faultless record.
Speaking at the Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association of NSW last weekend, Gay was talking to a friendly audience who have seen him come up with reforms in recent years to give both livestock and bulk transporters some real productivity gains. The permit bungles have affected the sector as well, but the swift return of responsibility for permits to the RMS has quickly decreased the backlog in the state.
“The national regulator, it’s something we need, it’s something important,” said Gay at the LBCA Conference. “We have had a hiccup upfront. Can I congratulate the staff at the RMS, having given that load away, our state was in a better position than most when it went over. Some weren’t nearly as efficient as us, they had stopped processing about a month before, which was totally disingenuous, which helped create this problem.”
The NHVR may not have been properly prepared, as of February 10, to meet the permit challenge. A staged, sector by sector, introduction may have been a better option, to migrate the trucking industry across from one system to the other. The thing is it is hard to discern who was to blame because, apparently, some of the states were being ‘disingenuous’, but not NSW, of course.
There is clearly not much goodwill between some in the state transport bureaucracies and the new boys and girls running the NHVR. They need to sort themselves out pretty quickly. The trucking industry can’t sit around waiting, with loads needing permits to move, for the regulators to work through their territorial squabbles.
Yet again, transport operators are working in an inconsistent and unstable regulatory environment, until this is properly sorted out. It is not good for business to have an increase in uncertainty. The NHVR project has to succeed and someone needs to bang some heads together, make the transition to national permitting and take the petty politics between bureaucrats out of the equation.
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.
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.
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.
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.