Rearing their heads in the news from Diesel this week are Productivity, Human Factors and Police Powers.
Victorian Transport Association (VTA) CEO Peter Anderson has highlighted the major productivity challenges facing Australian freight and logistics operators at the association’s annual State Conference at Lorne.
“There’s no doubt as I look at many of the operators with us that productivity improvement remains the main objective of every one of you, regardless of the size of your fleet or the number of people you employ,” said Anderson. “As operators, you are in business to be profitable and successful. And that can only be accomplished by finding new ways to reduce your costs, eliminate inefficiencies and improve your productivity measures.
“These are all noble aims, and attaining them is good for everyone. It means you can employ more people and put more money back into the economy. Freight movements are generally down thanks to a stagnant economy, and operator margins that are already stretched thin are being further squeezed by higher input and variable costs. We are also operating in an increasing regulatory environment and having to adapt our businesses to satisfy and comply with additional regulatory oversight. This is by no means a criticism but a reflection of the pressures and costs operators are having to take on.”
NatRoad has asked the National Transport Commission (NTC) to give human factors priority when considering the introduction of automated vehicles. NatRoad pointed out that direct member feedback was clearly focused on care and consideration of people first.
“Members’ comments emphasised two issues,” said Warren Clark, NatRoad CEO. “First is the impact automated vehicles will have on their jobs. Second is the need to place safety at the forefront of the considerations that guide the introduction of higher levels of automation.
“The NatRoad submission to the NTC emphasised that widespread use of automation was at least a decade away. There will be a considerable period when both automated and non-automated vehicles will utilise the road network and that transitioning process will need close management by government to ensure that road safety is enhanced not reduced. During this time, upskilling and re-skilling of members to deal with the digital revolution should be a high priority.
“The system is in transition to a long-term situation where the laws governing the road cease being laws directed to humans but become encoded as software dictating how autonomous vehicles should navigate the transport network. At that time, the current manner in which the road rules operate will have much less relevance, if not obsolescence.”
Improved Police Powers
Police and other authorised officers will have improved powers to investigate breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and, where appropriate, impose sanctions, under policy changes agreed by Australia’s transport ministers, according to the NTC.
“The overwhelming majority of Australia’s transport industry complies with the law and works hard to keep everyone safe,” said Paul Retter, NTC CEO. “However we know there are a small number of people, whether they be operators, drivers or other parties in the chain of responsibility, who try to cheat the system. These changes to the HVNL will help the authorities crack down on illegal practices that put people’s safety at risk – not just people who work in the transport industry but anyone who uses the road.