This week owner-truck drivers together with representatives from associated industry groups met in Canberra at a roundtable convened by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO). The meeting was part of the initial scoping work as the ASBFEO begin the formal inquiry process exploring the impact the RSRT’s Payments Order has had on small business owner-drivers around the country. Read more
There has been a lot of talk about safety in the trucking industry recently. Most of its was stimulated by the close call with and the impending, if Labor win, return of the RSRT. This threat, and threat it is, has got everyone reading from the same page on truck safety.
There are a number of different directions this strategy is taking. Each is designed to demonstrate either actual or provable future improvements in safety outcomes. This will be reflected in the fatality figures in accidents involving heavy vehicles.
Note, we are not talking about the fatal accidents where trucks are at fault, simply when there is a fatality and a truck is involved. The argument has to be about this figure, because it’s the best metric we have. A combination of poor compilation of statistics and incompatible interstate stats, mean we don’t have a definitive figure on how many people die each year as a direct result of a failure by the trucking community.
We are stuck with this number, and it is the number being touted by the supporters of the RSRT. The other number which gets a regular outing is how much more dangerous it is to work in the trucking industry than it is in things like forestry and mining.
Of course it’s more dangerous, people in trucks have to interact with the general public in their own cars, completely oblivious of the size and speed of the trucks around them. Behind the wheel of a truck, the driver has to keep themselves safe plus compensate for the lack of skill, knowledge and anticipation of everyone else on the road.
If mining equipment had to work in close proximity to the population in the big cities, who thought they had the right to weave in and out of the equipment in order to get to work on time, mining would be a very dangerous profession. Of course, they don’t, mining is a dangerous industrial activity which takes place in a controlled environment well away from major population centres on private land.
All of this means nothing, the perception is that trucks are monsters which go around killing people. They are not thought of as the only way the population of Australia could enjoy the comfort and convenience of their current lifestyle. Society’s dependance on trucks is always discounted.
The answer is the trucking industry has to get safer, as measured by the figures which are already biased against us, and in an environment where all of the other participants are irresponsible, but can’t be blamed for fatalities, because they are the electorate.
What is amazing is how well our industry has done, even in the metrics which are adversely weighted. The Australian Trucking Association published figures this week demonstrating a reduction in fatal articulated truck crashes of 80 per cent between 1982 and 2015.
Very impressive figures, which are unlikely to get much of a run in the general media. They go against the narrative so can be quietly ignored. Let’s hope, if the RSRT debate returns, we are able to get facts like these into the general media in a timely manner.
However, it’s not enough. The trucking industry’s commitment to safety has to be stated and reinforced over and over again. Hence, the call for the mandating of stability control in the trucking industry. The figure quoted by the ATA is a 25 per cent fall in fatal heavy vehicle crashes, saving 67 lives.
The period around an election is always fraught and big ticket items like this are always going to be brought up and held up as the way forward. In fact, the changes which will have the biggest impact are unlikely to get much publicity.
Waiting in the wings is the promise of improved safety outcomes from the planned improved roadworthiness program and reform of the accreditation system. This is unlikely to get much airplay in the election noise.
If we want to save lives and improve the perception of the trucking industry, we need to embark on a campaign to educate the public about living with trucks. They need to be brought up to speed, quite literally, with what a truck can do and what it can’t. Easy to say, hard to do.
As a final aside, a real change to the in-service braking regulations for trucks and trailers, without the current compromises built in, could solve a lot of issues in one low-key fell swoop.
An announcement by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will mean operators running many of the PBS truck and dog combinations will no longer need permits. The NHVR released Australia’s first gazette Notice for PBS truck and dog combinations.
The Notice will replace the need for state based permits for heavy vehicle combinations comprising of a three or four-axle truck, towing a three, four or five-axle dog trailer.
“The network will slash red tape for trucking operators, by removing the need for the trucking industry to apply for and later renew some 1,500 permits,” said Chris Melham, Australian Trucking Association CEO. “It will also encourage more operators to use these high productivity vehicles.
“The network is an example of how the NHVR is working with industry to reduce compliance costs. There’s a lot more to do, but any day when 1,500 pieces of unnecessary government paperwork gets scrapped is a good day.”
NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay congratulated NHVR and RMS on the Notice and said it’s a big win for NSW trucking operators who will no longer be required to obtain individual access permits.
“The change removes around 300 permits in the state, it is a common sense improvement that supports the NSW Government’s commitment of making it easier for trucking companies to do business,” said Gay. “Since 2011, the NSW Government has made it our priority to cut red tape and increase access, with more than 95 per cent of state roads now open to higher mass limits for vehicles operating under this Notice.”
PBS truck and dog operators working at Concessional Mass Limits will benefit from increased access on the NSW network, gaining use of 25/26 metre B-Double routes without the requirement for IAP. IAP remains a requirement for vehicles operating at Higher Mass Limits.
NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto said the Regulator had co-designed the Notice following detailed consultation with state and local government representatives.
“Encouraging industry with better access for newer, safer, high-productivity vehicles means less trips and that’s a good outcome for all road users,” said Petroccitto. “These vehicles are delivering safer transport while a higher degree of access certainty will improve efficiency and improve productivity for operators.We’ll continue to work with road managers across the country to expand this network.”
The NHVR points out in its statement, PBS Vehicle Approval will continue to be needed. For more information visit the NHVR website.
A submission by the Australian Trucking Association has called for corporate officers and directors to be personally liable under the Heavy Vehicle National Law for exercising due diligence. The submission to the National Transport Commission’s executive officer liability review is aimed at making these officers liable in any failure to prevent 34 specific safety critical offences. Read more
Watching the antics on TV dramas like Game of Thrones and Vikings should inspire the trucking industry in its next moves, politically. The bloody battle is won, for now. The opposition has retreated, but will refresh itself and prepare for a new assault, sometime in the future, but we don’t know when. Read more
The price of fuel to trucking operators in Australia will be reduced in July following the announcement of a reduction in the Road User Charge. Darren Chester, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, announced a drop in the fuel tax rate from 26.14 cents/litre to 25.9, as of July 1 2016.
The Australian Trucking Association has welcomed the move, which had been highlighted in the association’s 2016 pre-budget submission. The ATA estimates the change will save a typical owner-driver about $200 in 2016-17, and a typical small fleet operator about $1,100.
“The trucking industry pays for our use of the road system through heavy vehicle registration fees and a road user charge on fuel,” said Chris Melham, ATA CEO. “However, the industry has been overcharged since 2007, because the system used to calculate the charges underestimates the number of trucks on our roads.
“The Australian, state and territory governments last year agreed to a two-year freeze in their revenue from heavy vehicle charges in response to the problem. Reducing the road user charge from the current 26.14 cents per litre to 25.9 cents per litre will ensure that the Government’s predicted revenue from the road user charge remains constant.
“The decision builds on, and goes further than, the Government’s previous decisions to freeze the road user charge rate in 2014 and 2015. It’s great news for trucking operators in advance of next week’s Federal Budget and follows the repeal of the Road Safety Remuneration Act and tribunal last week.”
The road user charge is imposed as a reduction in the fuel tax credits trucking businesses can claim through the ATO’s BAS process. As a result of the decision, the fuel tax credit rate for eligible heavy vehicles will increase from 13.36 cents per litre to 13.6 cents per litre from July 1.
There was a great deal of relief late on Monday, when the formal abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was confirmed. A lot of hard work and insistent lobbying got rid of the RSRT and its Orders, aided by a Coalition Government looking for a stick to beat Labor with.
Okay, you can take a few days off to recover, but the job is not done. We need to get back out there and continue to campaign, to get some genuine resolution around the issues. The direct link between rates and safety has been put on the back burner, but the unsafe culture in the trucking industry is still out there to be tackled. Read more
The Wheel End Security Technical Advisory Procedure (TAP) has been updated and the new TAP is available online. This advisory procedure provides best-practice advice and extensive technical information on every aspect of wheel security, covering the types of wheels used, removal and installation procedures, checking the wheel assembly and manufacturer torque recommendations.
A wheel off can be defined as the separation of a tyre and rim assembly from a vehicle due to the failure of component performance. This failure can be due to component fatigue, installation techniques, maintenance procedures and/or lack of follow up procedures.
Wheel offs cause downtime and equipment damage, Of far more importance, they may cause personal injury or a fatality.
Drivers should also be made aware of how they can check wheel integrity during a journey. The advisory procedure includes advice on how to perform these inspections, as well as a guide to help drivers estimate tightening torque when changing wheels out on the road.
This guidance means that drivers can have confidence in the safety of a changed wheel until they can get back to the workshop.
The advisory procedure was developed by the Australian Trucking Association’s Industry Technical Council, which includes operators and suppliers with leading expertise in truck technology and can be downloaded here.
All of the TAPs issued by the ATA should be seen as a guide only, and their use is entirely voluntary. Recommendations or procedures may not be suitable for or applicable to all operators. Operators should consider their own circumstances, practices and procedures when using the TAP.
Operators must comply with the Australian Design Rules (ADRs), the Australian Vehicle Standards Regulations, roadworthiness guidelines and any specific information and instructions provided by manufacturers in relation to the vehicle systems and components.
This week has been another roller coaster ride for those trying to get the Contract Driver Order delayed or the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal abolished. The to and fro between the RSRT, the TWU and those opposing the new order has been never ending. Added to this we have the issue becoming a part of the pre-election hysteria gripping the political class. Read more
The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee has heard a call for a comprehensive review of the truck driver licensing system. The Australian Trucking Association’s National Manager Government Relations and Policy, Bill McKinley called for a review of truck driver licence training and assessment in his evidence at the Aspects of Road Safety in Australia Senate inquiry.
Reflecting the attitude in Canberra to matters surrounding the trucking industry, McKinley made his comments in a sparsely populated Senate Enquiry room, with just two Senators in situ and another ringing in online.
“At the moment, the quality of training and assessment is highly variable,” said McKinley. “There are many excellent trainers, but others train to a price or guarantee how long the course will take, regardless of how competent you are at the end of it.
“Operators are particularly concerned about the variable quality of training in chain of responsibility, load restraint, fatigue management and work health and safety. What we need for heavy vehicle driver licensing is a common set of standards that the states or the NHVR apply. The standards need to be imposed by a body that is responsive to feedback.
“At the same time, at the regulation of providers side, we need a common national system where registered training organisations deliver the training packages they’re supposed to deliver.
“[In our view], the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Minister for Education and Training should convene a joint review with the states of the training, assessment and licensing arrangements for truck drivers generally. This review should explore including these arrangements within the scope of the Heavy Vehicle National Law for the states that are part of that system.”
The ATA are also recommending a review of the provisions allowing overseas licence holders to drive in Australia.
“The rules should firstly require overseas licence holders to obtain an Australian licence within a year, even if they are only in Australia temporarily,” said McKinley. “At present, every state except the NT allows temporary visitors to drive on their overseas licence indefinitely. This could be for years.
“Secondly, there should also be consistent provisions about what happens when an overseas licence holder fails a driving test. In three states at the moment, it’s possible for an overseas licence holder to apply for an Australian drivers licence, go to the driving test, fail, and then keep driving on their overseas licence, even though they just demonstrated conclusively that they are not competent to drive in Australia.
“Finally, overseas licence holders who do not hold an Australian heavy vehicle licence should be banned from driving heavy vehicles for any commercial or occupational purpose. An overseas licence holder should be able to drive a motorhome around Australia, but driving a heavy vehicle for commercial purposes should not be allowed.”