Improve the Chain

The chain of responsibility (COR) legislation needs to be streamlined with safety prioritised is a common view in the trucking industry. The current legislation sets out COR duties by attempting to prescribe exactly how businesses must operate, discouraging innovation and creating unnecessary red tape. Read more

Talking Turkey About Trucking

When is a defect not a defect?

One of those perennial issues which dogs the trucking industry is the inconsistency of roadside enforcement. No matter what you do, it is always possible to get a truck defected in a roadside inspection. This is frustrating for everyone involved, all the way from the owner, the driver and operations, as well as the workshop responsible for maintaining and fixing the issue.



How many times have you heard the story of a truck driver who has driven through several states and had the truck inspected a number of times, only to have the last roadside inspector defect the vehicle for something trivial? Then begins the tiresome process of getting the defect cleared, never easy and the process often seems to have been designed just to create even more frustration.



It was this kind of unnecessary difficulty the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator was set up to eliminate. Several years into the project and we are just starting to see some real progress in some areas, but this roadside inconsistency is likely to continue for quite some time.



This week Christopher Melham has spoken out about the issue, at the same time as spruiking the ATA’s 2015 TMC in Melbourne in October. The point is a valid one, and the event will see representatives of the roadside agencies and truck workshop on the dais working through the topic. However, this is only just scratching the surface, the problem is deeply rooted in the custom and practice of trucking regulation.



“We’ve all heard of cases where the same roadworthiness requirement is interpreted differently by jurisdictions or inspectors, leading to confusion,” said Chris. “Safety is our highest priority on the road. But the trucking industry’s workshops need to know exactly what the standards are, in order for them to keep their fleet in top shape.”



The problems are manifold. There is no way to set hard and fast rules on the roadworthiness of every truck in every situation. The standards are set very precisely, but, on a case by case basis, every single item is open interpretation. It is often the individual officer who makes the call, based on experience and training, but also the attitude of the driver to the inspection and perhaps their own mood, good or bad.



Of course we have to accept a certain degree of variation. People are different and judgement calls will always vary, it’s simply human nature. The problem is, this is not the only variable effecting the situation.



Each state has developed their own roadside enforcement agency and they have grown to have their own culture, and these are markedly different as you move from state to state. Just the way the driver is spoken to and how the situation is explained can be vastly different. Anyone with experience of vehicle inspections in two or more states will be able to testify to this.



Variation between states was further enhanced by the fact, vehicle law was different in each state. The introduction of the NHVR has seen a convergence of the basic rules, but the variable cultures and interpretations this engenders continue to frustrate.



Then we have to include the political factor. Sometimes, the state government needs to make a political point and demonstrate its clamping down hard on the trucking industry. It is hard to believe the inspectors involved in a highly publicised blitz on trucking aren’t motivated to get the defect count up to serve the point their department is trying to make.



So, here we have it, a series of factors, all of which accentuate the other. If all of the influences are against the truckie, there is no way the truck is going to get away without a defect, we all know it’s impossible to have a truck absolutely perfect all of the time.



Conversely, it’s also possible for all of the influences on a defect decision are going the other way. In the worst case scenario, this could mean a fully loaded truck pulling out onto the highway, after an inspection, but with defective brakes, a disaster waiting to happen.



We will never be able to eliminate the human error factor, but everything else needs improvement. It urgently needs a concerted push by all concerned to get a single standard accepted in every state. Then those consistent standards need to be driven hard, down through the hierarchy so they genuinely affect the person stood at the side of the road making calls on defects. We’ve already been waiting too long!

COR reform on track

Reforms to the chain of responsibilities regime has taken a step closer with a recent release by the National Transport Commission. The NTC discussion paper details the proposed specific requirements of participants in the supply chain. Read more

Technician scholarships available

Up to three scholarships are up for grabs for up and coming young service technicians under 25. Cummins South Pacific is sponsoring the search for young service technicians from Australian workshops to receive one of three scholarships to attend the 2015 Paccar and Dealer TMC in Melbourne on October 26-28.
Read more

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Searching for the best

The one award in the trucking industry, specifically aimed at recognising talent and dedication in a truck workshop will be awarded later this year. Nominations are now open for the 2015 Craig Roseneder Award, which recognises technical and maintenance excellence in the trucking industry’s workshops.



Sponsored by Castrol Vecton, the award is open to any individual who works full time as a workshop manager or mechanic in the Australian trucking industry for a trucking company, supplier or commercial workshop. The Craig Roseneder Award is one of the National Trucking Industry Awards.





The CEO of the Australian Trucking Association, Christopher Melham, said the trucking industry is privileged to have exceptionally talented, dedicated professionals in workshops right across the country.



“Fleet maintenance is about more than keeping the engine running. For our Craig Roseneder Award nominees, it’s a passion and a challenge to make sure their fleet is as safe and efficient as possible,” said Melham. “Not only do these people keep their vehicles in top shape, they’re often known to improve on them with safety innovations they’ve conceived and developed in their own time.



“Though highly regarded, these people are often the quiet achiever in the workplace. I encourage members of the industry to help us recognise these exceptional people by nominating them for the 2015 Craig Roseneder Award.”



The winner of the 2015 Craig Roseneder Award will receive a trip to Nashville, USA to attend the American Trucking Associations’ 2016 Technology and Maintenance Council Annual Meeting and Transportation Technology Exhibition, courtesy of Castrol Vecton.



The prize includes airfares, full registration to the event, premium conference accommodation, partners program (if applicable), AUD $1,500 in spending money, and registration to the 2016 Paccar and Dealer TMC.



All nominations must be received by September 7 2015. Nominees for the Craig Roseneder Award must have at least five years of experience in their field, and self-nominations are not accepted.



For more information on the Craig Roseneder Award and to make a nomination, go to the ATA Website.



The Award will be presented at the Castrol Vecton Awards Dinner on Tuesday 27 October in Melbourne. For tickets to the dinner, go to the TMC Website. 

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Review EWD tolerances

The current bill introducing electronic work diaries does not properly consider issues with how small breaches of the work and rest rules would be treated. Chris Melham, Australian Trucking Association CEO has stated the time tolerances used in planned EWD should be reviewed after two years.



This review is one of the recommendations in the ATA’s submission to the Queensland Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee enquiry into the Heavy Vehicle National Law Amendment Bill 2015, the bill which will enable EWDs under the regulations.





“At present, the Heavy Vehicle National Law requires drivers of fatigue-regulated heavy vehicles to fill out written work diaries to record their work and rest hours,” said Melham. “The time periods in these written work diaries are required to be rounded to the nearest 15 minutes, and are hand-written by the driver.



“The electronic diaries that would be approved under this bill would replace the need for written work diaries, potentially offering a considerable reduction in the red tape burden faced by operators and drivers. These systems would automatically round to the nearest one minute interval, with a maximum work time tolerance of eight minutes in a 24 hour period. There would be no tolerance for errors in rest times.


“The ATA believes these differences in the legislated work and rest limit tolerances would create a two-tiered regulatory system, with EWD users facing a significantly tighter regulatory regime than those using written work diaries. As a result, we expect that many operators and drivers would decide to continue using the written diaries, despite potential red tape savings.



“Ideally, the bill and the Heavy Vehicle (Fatigue Management) National Regulation should be amended immediately to address the industry’s concerns. Alternatively, the NTC’s recommended two-year review of the tolerances should be locked in to the NTC work program and NHVR corporate plans now.”



The submission by the ATA uses a real-world work example to demonstrate the differences in the diary systems. In this example, a driver takes an early rest break to have a nap, but rests for 29 minutes, rather than thirty minutes. This minor error would disappear in a written work diary, as the driver would inevitably round the break up to half an hour. However, an EWD would record every minute of discrepancy. The driver would be exposed to a maximum penalty of $4,100 unless an extra 15 minute work break was taken. The submission also reiterates the ATA’s call for electronic work diary use to be on a voluntary basis only.



“Although EWDs could offer great advantages for some businesses, installing them would be an unnecessary cost for small operators or those who don’t currently fall under work diary requirements,” said Melham. “In the ATA’s view, the only situation where EWDs should be mandatory is where a court orders an operator to install them after convicting the operator of an offence.”


The submission is available at the ATA Website. 


Talking Turkey About Trucking

Ending the old boys club

The trucking industry needs to get with the program and bring in fresh and diverse new blood in order to head into the future. The nature of the trucking industry is changing and society around the industry is also changing, fast. Read more

Tax freeze on fuel and money for roads

The current freeze on the rate of fuel tax is to be extended. Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss has announced his intention to freeze the heavy vehicle Road User Charge at the current rate of 26.14 cents/l for the 2015-16 financial year. Read more

Trucking productivity could plateau

The Australian Trucking Association has called for reforms to enable continuing improvement in productivity. In its submission to the Government’s Competition Policy Review, the ATA seeks changes to enable the trucking industry to continue to develop productivity in the face of an ever growing freight task.


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“Between 1971 and 2007, trucking industry productivity increased six-fold due to the uptake of high productivity vehicles like B-doubles,” said the ATA submission. “But the industry’s productivity has plateaued due to government regulation and policy decisions.



“With the national freight task set to grow by 80 per cent between 2011 and 2031, governments must take action on policy reforms to enable the industry to improve its productivity, including by using longer, safer trucks on appropriate routes.



Road planning and funding reforms must be designed to optimise road infrastructure funding efficiency, said the submission. The trucking industry needs the right roads at the right price, with the right level of access.



“We want to know that funding for road infrastructure provides value for money, with better processes to assess how effectively it is spent,” said the ATA. “This would include improving governance arrangements for public infrastructure projects, project benchmarking, and additional cost benefit analysis.



“Our submission also urges the Government to examine road supply and management services provided by road agencies, with an eye to improving transparency and productivity in this area. The submission also calls for competitive neutrality between government and industry trucking accreditation schemes.



“The competition review states that government businesses should not hold a competitive advantage purely because of their ownership. The Government should reflect this with fair and comparable treatment of industry accreditation schemes owned by industry (such as TruckSafe) and government (such as NHVAS).”


The full submission can be downloaded from the ATA website.


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Park Brake Safety Advice

A new technical advisory procedure, providing workshops with essential checks to make sure the park brakes on their trucks restrain their trailers safely. This advice has been published by the Australian Trucking Association as part of the Industry Technical Council work in improving safety outcomes in the industry.



Australian trucks should have park brakes to activate the spring brakes on their trailers. However, the Australian Design Rules allow some overseas models to be imported that park ‘on air’, a less secure method. The ATA first issued a warning about the problem in 2013.



“In Australia, the standard practice is that trailers are parked using the mechanical force of their spring brakes. Applying the park brake in the cab of a prime mover should apply these spring brakes on all connected trailers,” said Chris Loose, ATA Senior Adviser Engineering.



“Under the Australian Design Rules, trucks and prime movers that meet the European brake standard, UNECE R13, are deemed to meet the Australian standard as long as they also meet a performance specification. However, some of these units use park brakes that only apply service air to the brakes on connected trailers, rather than spring brakes.



“This is less safe, because the brakes would release if the air leaked out or a driver accidentally disconnected the air lines in the wrong order. If a trailer is parked on spring brakes, the brakes remain on even if air pressure is lost, the brakes fail to safe.



“The European standard only requires the brakes to maintain pressure for 15 minutes, because their drivers routinely fit wheel chocks. Because Australian operating practices don’t include the use of wheel chocks in these situations, there’s a real danger that these braking systems could contribute to a trailer rolling away, or its landing legs being damaged.”



Chris said the advisory procedure, developed by the ITC, provided operators with procedures to help them find out what kind of park brakes were installed in their vehicles.



“If your heavy vehicle park brake parks trailers ‘on air’, it is important to get advice from a suitably qualified engineering consultant,” said Chris. “Similarly, the ATA recommends that trucking operators should only purchase vehicles where applying the park brake activates its trailers’ spring brakes.”



The procedures are available for free from the ATA’s online resource library.