As the world of road transport becomes more complex and new laws tighten up around compliance, compliance from the driver’s seat becomes more difficult. The truck driver is still the key component in any compliance strategy for a trucking operation.
Since 1 October 2018, amendments to Australia’s Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) mean that every party in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain of responsibility (CoR) now has a duty to ensure the safety of their transport activities.
More than ever, individual drivers need correct and up-to-date knowledge, skills to utilise new technologies, and commitment to the compliance process, taking responsibility for their equipment, environment and actions.
Stuart Williams from EziComply says he has been auditing compliance systems for the best part of two decades and has seen many different systems and many different ways to meet compliance obligations. As a result of the recent changes to CoR regulations the nature of compliance systems is changing quite radically, and these changes together with CoR requirements greatly impact drivers.
One aspect that all compliance systems have in common is the necessary interaction between the driver and company policies, procedures and records. In the last few years there has been a major shift from traditional paper-based systems to electronic systems. This change brings many benefits.
In a paper-based environment the compliance process can take a long time for a driver to return and submit paperwork, for administration to process/bill customers, for compliance officers to monitor what is happening and then action tasks or improvements in order to gain management efficiencies.
Electronic record keeping, however, allows for information to be collected in real time and data to be entered into the online system at the coalface. It saves drivers time and gives them greater control over their working environment with respect to their individual compliance obligations.
EziComply has developed an electronic recording system that records the data and in particular manages the vehicle details for the driver. Vehicle information is entered into the system. When the driver does the daily check a calculation is made identifying the vehicles in the combination and returning the known tare weights for each vehicle.
The driver is then given the maximum payload based on the vehicle combination they are operating. Load information can be entered into the system and the driver will know in real time if the vehicle is loaded legally. This gives the driver the opportunity to adjust the load before leaving site.
Besides meeting legal obligations more easily, administration time and costs for the company are also significantly reduced, and compliance officers have access to up to date data at all times.
Such a radical change impacts drivers and there have been mixed responses. The most common negative responses stem from a fear or mistrust of technology, or the fact that drivers don’t always have the necessary skills to feel comfortable with new technologies.
The average age of truck drivers continues to rise and many came into the industry when it was only loosely regulated. There is a resistance to ever increasing direct monitoring of the driver and their activities.
There can also be a problem in the correct information filtering down to the drivers in an operation, especially if those tasked with managing the drivers also have little real information about how the compliance system has to work.
Knowledge and training are key as in many cases the driver is operating hundreds of kilometres from the depot and under minimal supervision. The driver needs to be clear on the exact procedures to follow and how to react to changing circumstances out there on the road.
Managing drivers is a complex task and companies would do well to provide well prepared induction processes and regular refresher training to ensure drivers are confident and clear about what they have to do in order to keep themselves and their company compliant.
Many operators have also installed in-cab monitoring devices in their vehicles with good results. These cameras have a two-fold effect on driver behaviour.
Firstly, drivers tend to be more cautious and follow the rules better. Secondly, they gain an advantage when confronted by bad driving behaviour of other road users operating around their heavy vehicles. In the event of an incident, in-cab monitoring provides video footage which in many cases help protect a driver from false accusations.
Safety and compliance are vitally important for today’s transport industry. Throughout the transition to new industry codes of practice and ever smarter electronic record-keeping, driver interaction will remain a critical component for success.
Some insights to compliance:
- Training of staff is crucial
- Monitor the flow of records from the driver through online administrative processes and into the review of collated data
- Manage data effectively
- Review the system regularly
- Find the source of problems. Don’t ‘band-aid’ fix them