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 NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) have stirred up a hornets nest with the heavy haulage industry in the past few weeks. At a time when the rules for the trucking industry are being integrated into a single set of rules, the roadside enforcement in NSW are now warning drivers of single trailer low loaders with dollies that an MC license is required to drive the truck, not an HC.
This particular interpretation of the rules appears to fly in the face of the way this rule is being enforced in the rest of Australia and also in the way it was enforced in NSW until recently. The RMS appear to have taken legal advice and found it is possible to demand the driver of a low loader, which uses a dolly between the truck turntable and the trailer, must have a MC license.
The RMS decided to change the way the roadside enforcement deal with low loaders without warning the trucking industry.
“We have not been included in any discussion on this position, and have not been given any information from RMS to communicate to our members,” said the ATA NSW, in a letter to the RMS complaining about the change. “We find this situation untenable, given we have had numerous meetings with RMS in the past that have provided ample opportunity and invitation to discuss this matter.”
Since this letter was sent, ATA NSW has reported the results of a meeting with the people at RMS. The NSW authorities will not back down from the change in interpretation and insist an MC license is needed if the combination includes a low loader dolly.
Any drivers using the HC license will be issued with an official warning, which will be recorded. They will then be allowed to drive ‘after being assessed as sufficiently experienced’. Further warnings will be issued if the driver is stopped again. However, in the end the driver will have to upgrade to an MC or face a penalty.
The RMS appear to have decided to take this course of action without consultation either with the industry or other authorities around Australia. Yet again, the state has decided to unilaterally change the rules for the trucking industry all over Australia by default. If this rule is applied in NSW, it will affect most of the low loader industry, as they will travel through NSW on a large proportion of their journeys.
This is yet another blow to the effort being put in to create a truly uniform national set of regulations for the trucking industry. As the process continues to bring road rules and roadside enforcement under one umbrella in the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, one state chooses to come up with issues like this to hinder the project.
This is one of those occasions when I would rather not be able to say, ‘I told you so!’ but, unfortunately, no sooner had last week’s opinion page appeared than one of the problems discussed reared its ugly head and the trucking industry is back banging its head against a brick wall.
In last week’s Diesel News we said, in the story comparing Australia with Mexico http://www.dieselnews.com.au/not-setting-the-world-on-fire, ‘Every week there is some state bureaucrat shoving another stick into the spokes, to make some self-interested point along the way’.
The stick this week has been wielded by the usual suspect, New South Wales’ Roads and Maritime Services, everybody’s favourite RMS. Right in the middle of the difficult and lengthy process of creating a single national law for the trucking industry on our roads, the RMS decide to start a campaign which is at odds with practice in the rest of Australia, but also at odds with their own practice up until Christmas.
The ridiculous decision to stop low loader drivers and check their driving licenses in order to tell them they need an MC license to drive, what is essentially, a semi, beggars belief. Changing the way low loaders are regulated without telling anyone in advance suggests this act was designed to upset interested parties for some strategic reason. What that reason could be, we will leave that to your imagination.
If you, as a responsible regulator, reckon there is reason to be concerned about the skill set of drivers handling low loaders which have to use a low loader dolly to spread the weight across more axles at the front of the trailer, then tell someone about it. There may be cause for concern, there are a lot of very big and very loads out there on inadequate roads. (Far be it for me to suggest the RMS or Transport for NSW has anything to do with this inadequacy).
Legitimate concerns can be raised and the trucking industry engaged, along with the other states, who are part of this elusive single national system. A measured approach could have been taken, everyone should agree on an increase in safety and competency among those in the industry. NSW could have got an improved safety outcome and everyone would have been happy, even if it didn’t mean low loader drivers needing an MC license.
It’s not like NSW doesn’t have a track record of these unilateral acts arriving on everyone’s doorstep without prior discussion. The virtual national mandating of electronic stability systems on all hazardous chemical tankers by the NSW Environmental Protection Agency being a recent case in point. The ramifications of that one will be playing out over the next few years!
The questions for the trucking industry are twofold. Firstly, how long do we have until all of our drivers, who handle low loaders with dollies, have to hold an MC? Secondly, how long is it going to be before we get some real national heavy vehicle rules and a system strong enough to tell the rogue elements in enforcement in NSW to get back in their box?
The requirement for on board mass measuring equipment (OBM) in the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) in NSW has been accepted by Transport Certification Australia (TCA).
“TCA has been informed by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) that some Performance Based Standards (PBS) ‘A-Double’ combinations and all Higher Mass Limits (HML) Quad Axle B Double combinations operating in New South Wales must have an OBM system linked to the IAP as a condition of permit,” said TCA CEO, Chris Koniditsiotis. “TCA nationally administers the use of OBM systems linked to the IAP, allowing road managers such as RMS to grant access to routes that may have previously been unavailable for these vehicle types, due to identified infrastructure risks. Read more
The Chain of Responsibility and Heavy Vehicle Safety Conference, supported by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Association (CILTA), will be taking place on December 3-4. This discussion comes at the end of the year during which the National Heavy Vehicle Law rolled out, with changes in standards, fatigue management and chain of responsibility. Read more
In the wake of the tanker crash last year which led to the targeting, by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services, of the Cootes tanker fleet, a court has fined the company $525,000 for defect, mass and registration offences.
The crackdown on the fleet, with RMS officers going through the company’s compliance records and operation with a fine tooth comb, came after an accident in Mona Vale in October 2013. In the crash, two people were killed and the overturned tanker burned for many hours on a Sydney street and on TV news screens.
Defective brakes were identified as the cause of the crash, prompting the grounding of the Cootes fleet and an RMS investigation. In the case, 255 separate offences were identified when the fleet were inspected in the weeks after the crash
“Hundreds of hours of inspections and investigations have gone into this compliance action against Cootes. Over the three phases of the compliance operations there were almost 1,000 inspections,” said Duncan Gay, NSW Roads and Freight Minister, commenting on the fine. “We have the toughest heavy vehicle enforcement and compliance regime in Australia and today’s action is a wake-up call to all transport operators, if you don’t meet our safety standards we will pursue you to the end of the road.
“The key in today’s case was that most of the trucks inspected were not registered in NSW. This brings into sharp focus the need for a national standard for truck inspections to ensure a more stringent regime is adopted across Australia, which I have personally called on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and National Transport Commission to establish.
“The most serious concerns in the fleet were for major brake and steering defects, for which the court has applied substantial penalties. Since our compliance operation began the company has spent $9 million on maintenance and reduced the size of its fleet, which is a good result for road safety in NSW.
“While the company is certainly headed in the right direction, Roads and Maritime is continuing to work with Cootes to ensure continued improvements in compliance and make sure vehicles operating on NSW roads are safe.”
After the NSW Government asked the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to look into reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens for business and the community, an initial report has been published. Read more
In the aftermath of recent accidents and compliance campaigns by roadside enforcement, one of the things given to the press is the percentage of raw numbers of defects or notices issued. These figures are always given out without context and used to create unrest in the general public.
A recent interview with one of those figures involved in a lot of these stories, Paul Endycott, General Manager of Compliance Operations at RMS, actually brought out some figures and the relative proportions of offences. By giving fuller disclosure we do get a better idea about what’s going on out on the highway than the random numbers thrown out in the media, like the seven maintenance items identified in the VicRoads sweep of the BP truck fleet after the accident in Wodonga last week.
In the past year Roads and Maritime Services in NSW have inspected 559,903 trucks and trailers. Of these 72,787 were issued defect notices. This may appear, at first glance, as a high figure but it is worth remembering the relatively low level of fault which can attract a notice. Also, since the introduction of the National Heavy Vehicle Law there are no warnings issued, they go straight to a notice.
The numbers can be used to suggest bad practice, but everyone in the industry knows, there is no way 13 per cent of trucks on the road are in a dangerous condition. The reasons given for the defect notices being issued shown issues ticked off by the RMS are all over the vehicle.
21 per cent of the notices were for brake issues, 19 were called ancillary faults, body and chassis issues made up 18 per cent and wheels made up 16 per cent. At a lower level again, oil and fuel leaks, as well as suspension issues made up eight per cent each.
When it comes to breach reports, three per cent of the over half a million trucks had one issued. The vast majority of these were for mass offences.
Look at those figures from a trucking industry point of view and it all looks reasonably OK. Yes, we could all do a little better, but this is the real world. The RMS are seen to be getting very finicky in their inspections, just looking to rack up defect numbers in order to demonstrate how well they are doing their job.
However, put these numbers into the wrong hands of the spin doctors and we have a different kind of game altogether. All they need is to throw in a few choice adjectives and the fear and loathing of the general public for the trucking industry can get inflamed.
‘A massive 13 per cent of all trucks stopped on NSW highways were found to be faulty’ is the kind of hyperbole we could see. ‘Over one-in-five trucks were found to have defective brakes’ might also make an appearance. Be afraid, be very afraid!
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
Sometimes there is some good news for trucking in NSW. This week it is a clarification on a part of the law where operators were not quite sure where they stood. Under NSW transport law road trains were not only subject to a 90 km/h speed limit but required to be speed limited to 90 km/h.
This gave operators little flexibility within the fleet when the prime mover is used elsewhere in a fleet, i.e. not pulling a road train. However, a recent enquiry to the powers that be in NSW by the Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association has received a reply which has cleared up the issue.
When NSW transport law was superseded by the National Heavy Vehicle Law the requirement to limit the trucks to 90 km/h no longer applied. Now a fleet can limit all of their trucks to 100 km/h but ensure they don’t exceed 90 km/h when hauling a road train, like in the rest of the country.
According to the RMS the relevant rule is in clause 7 of the National Road Train Notice which states: “A road train operating in New South Wales must not exceed a speed of 90km/h or any lower speed limit specified for a route in the “condition” column in Appendix 1 (a), (b)or (c)to this Schedule, that applies to the vehicle.” Is that clear enough?