Australia Post has announced a four-year partnership with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) with a focus on truck safety on the roads. Read more
The Transport Workers’ Union has welcomed the Labor Party commitment to establishing a system to tackle what it calls the downward spiral in the road transport industry.
The Labor Party National Conference heard that since the Coalition Government abolished a road safety watchdog in 2016, 469 people have been killed in truck crashes. In August a Monash University study confirmed again that trucking is Australia’s deadliest job, with drivers 13 times more likely to die at work than any other profession.
The commitment to improving road safety will see the party engage with the TWU and key industry players in developing a system of safe standards that will apply to all parties in the transport supply chain and raise standards across the industry.
“This is an important day for our industry because we can be assured that under a Labor government, there will be a priority to make transport safer and fairer. The industry is on its knees because of the way wealthy companies at the top demand that their goods be delivered for the bare minimum. In trucking this means constant financial pressure on transport operators and drivers. This sees drivers pushed to work long hours, speed and skip rest breaks and it means vital maintenance on trucking fleets is delayed. This is why transport is Australia’s deadliest industry and why there are such high numbers of deaths and injuries in truck crashes. Today the transport industry has a brighter future, with a plan for sustainable businesses, quality jobs and safer roads,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.
Truck driver John Waltis told the Industrial Deaths Inquiry earlier this year that he’s attended more than 50 funerals for truck driver colleagues.
“I’ve seen the consequences of fatigue, the pressures to meet deadlines, and crashes due to mechanical faults. The devastating effects of these pressures goes beyond the 51 funerals I’ve attended. I’ve consoled far too many wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. It’s time for change,” Mr Waltis said.
When it comes to insolvencies, transport also faces difficulties. Data from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission shows that 469 companies entered into external administration in the transport, postal and warehousing industries between July 2016 and June 2017. The main reason for the insolvencies was inadequate cash flow.
Labor will also tackle the exploitation of transport workers in the on-demand economy.
“For on-demand workers the plan for Safe Rates means an end to exploitation and eighteenth century working conditions via an app. These workers, regardless of their label, will be able to seek rights and collectively agitate for conditions that will bring fairness, safety and stability to the industry,” Mr Kaine added.
A survey of riders has shown three out of every four riders are paid below minimum rates. Almost 50% of riders had either been injured on the job or knew someone who had. A Melbourne delivery rider recently won a landmark unfair dismissal case against Foodora.
- Truck crash deaths statistics
- Safe Rates
In April 2016 the Federal Government abolished a system backing safe rates that was holding wealthy clients such as retailers, banks, oil companies and ports to account for low cost contracts, which do not allow their goods to be delivered safely. This was despite the Government’s own reports showing a link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the safe rates system would reduce truck crashes by 28% [PricewaterhouseCoopers “Review of the Road Safety Remuneration System Final Report January 2016” (PWC Review 2016 – published by the Commonwealth Department of Employment on 1 April, 2016)].
- Evidence of pressure
A Macquarie University study in February criticised a ‘critical gap” since the Government abolished the regulation that the independent tribunal represented, “that can eliminate existing incentives for overly tight scheduling, unpaid work, and rates that effectively are below cost recovery”.
The study also showed that:
- One in 10 truck drivers work over 80 hours per week.
- One in six owner drivers say drivers can’t refuse an unsafe load
- 42% of owner drivers said the reason drivers do not report safety breaches was because of a fear of losing their jobs
A Safe Work Australia report in July 2015 showed:
- 31% of transport employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
- 20% of transport employers accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than 2% in other industries.
- 20% of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.
- Senate report on road safety
In October the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee approved a report recommending industry-led talks to set up an independent body on “supply chain standards and accountability as well as sustainable, safe rates for the transport industry”.
- Transport company insolvencies: the full ASIC report.
Coles has announced it will contract work to Toll, which will make road travel safer, said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
The Coles announcement will see the retailer moving significant parts of its retail work to Toll in Queensland and Victoria. A final decision will be made regarding retail work in South Australia. Toll has made commitments to hire drivers already carrying out this work for other companies, once skills and standards tests are met.
“What we need is a focus on the entire transport supply chain. This is why we want to see major companies taking the move Coles has done in choosing transport operators with the best practices, excellent safety standards and fair working conditions for their transport needs. This will ensure quality jobs in transport and safer roads,” said Mr Kaine.
In May Coles signed an agreement with the TWU to make its transport supply chains safer and to ensure safety and fairness in its on-demand economy work.
Trucking is Australia’s deadliest industry with a recent Monash University study highlighting the health and safety hazards for truck drivers. The study states truck drivers are 13 times more likely to die at work than any other profession, Mr Kaine said.
A report by the National Transport Commission said practices by the retail industry affecting road transport “can play a direct and significant role in causing hazardous practices”. It adds: “There is solid survey evidence linking payment levels and systems to crashes, speeding, driving while fatigued, and drug use”.
The TWU has also signed a charter with Woolworths that allows for supply chain auditing and plans to improve safety.
“Aldi continues to refuse to acknowledge its role in making our roads safer and has launched a federal court case to stop truck drivers and the TWU from protesting and speaking out about rates and safety in its supply chain,” Mr Kaine said. “Hearings in the case are set for April.”
The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has announced that Luke Donnellan, Victorian Minister for Roads, Ports and Road Safety, will address its State Conference.
The VTA has invited around 40 high-profile speakers from the Victorian and national freight and logistics industry, including Sal Petroccitto, CEO, NHVR; Duncan Elliott, CEO, North East Link Authority; Chris Koniditsiotis, CEO, Transport Certification Australia; and David Hodgett, Shadow Roads and Ports Minister, to share insight on critical industry issues.
“Our members are in business to facilitate the efficient movement of goods through the supply chain, but to do this it is essential for them to be profitable and successful,” Peter Anderson, CEO, VTA.
“As an association we make no apology for helping members to succeed, which is why the conference is being developed with sustained profitability and success – and how to achieve it – as a core theme.”
The event, themed Profit or Perish: Achieving Sustained Success in Transport, will take place in Lorne, 18–20 March.
Anderson said the association was thrilled that Minister Donnellan had accepted the invitation to address the gathering of members and other industry participants.
“Minister Donnellan is a great friend and supporter of the VTA and his attendance at our conference reflects the immense contribution of Victorian transport operators to the state and national economy,” he said.
“With more than $40 billion earmarked for Victorian infrastructure spending over the next five years, roads, transport and related issues will loom large in this current election year.”
Australian businesses are being urged to sharpen their focus on workplace safety in the lead-up to National Safe Work Australia Month, which will be recognised throughout October.
Poor work health and safety costs $5,000 per worker each year and equates to 4.1 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product. This doesn’t compare to the immeasurable cost of grief and trauma to workers and their families. This is especially true for businesses across the road transport industry – there are 42 workers killed each year, 77 per cent of which are caused by vehicle incidents.
These alarming statistics point to the fact that driver safety programs need to be a top priority for fleet managers. Here are three ways fleet managers can help take advantage of near real-time data on driver behaviour to help drive safety risks out of their workplace at every given opportunity:
- Help improve driver behaviour
A report commissioned by Fleetmatics found that 61 per cent of Australian fleet owners cite that their staff are driving company vehicles carelessly or negligently. Not managing driver behaviour can take a major toll on a business’s fleet and should be something that is closely monitored.
With GPS fleet management technology, businesses can track how individual drivers are behaving on the road and are able to target relevant drivers to implement new safety targets. Driver A might need to reduce excessive speeding, while Driver B needs to reduce hard braking.
Such was the case for Aussiemove. The removal company was challenged with eliminating harsh driving across its fleet of trucks. After implementing GPS tracking technology, tangible driving KPI and healthy competition amongst employees, it has reduced wear and tear on vehicles and helped eliminate traffic infringements.
- Provide well-maintained vehicles
Failing to carry out timely maintenance may put your drivers at increased risk of incident. A vehicle tracking system uses data on time, engine use or mileage, to provide scheduling alerts. This helps you stay on top of preventative maintenance and reduce the risk of vehicle faults. For example, Traffic Diversions Group uses GPS tracking technology to help ensure there is always a reliable vehicle on the road, by setting up alerts regarding routine maintenance. In addition to improving safety, this can help reduce the wear and tear of your vehicles.
- Keep track of driver location
Driving involves a level of risk. For a driver travelling on a long journey through unstable landscapes, or to a remote jobsite with no cellular coverage, the risks are amplified. According to research from the Royal Flying Doctor Service, more than half of road fatalities occur on rural and remote roads.
If a vehicle is fitted with comprehensive tracking equipment that includes a panic button feature, the driver can alert head office of their precise location in the event of an emergency. This puts help on the way almost instantly, and is likely to get the driver out of a dangerous situation, faster.
And with National Safe Work Australia Month upon us, now is the time to help ensure transport businesses are tracking their way to safer fleet behaviour. A sharpened focus on safe driving behaviour will not only help benefit the wellbeing of drivers, it will likely have a ripple effect towards improving the bottom line, by helping reduce the risk of incident and speeding fines.
This column first appeared in the February/March 217 issue of Logistics & Materials Handling Magazine.
There has been much talk recently about budget repair and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ debt. It comes at a time when government debt and interest rates are very low by historical standards, and when Australian governments still have excellent credit ratings compared to other countries. In that environment, surely it would be a good time to borrow to fund infrastructure?
It is an important question, but it carries the danger of over-simplification: The oversimplification is the suggestion that all borrowing for spending on infrastructure is ‘good’ and all borrowing for other purposes is ‘bad’.
In reality, however, it is more important that any borrowing or, indeed, any spending by government, be a good investment, whether it is spent on infrastructure, on one hand, or on education or health, on the other.
The tale of the two trains illustrates the point. One train is the Very Fast Train between Sydney-Canberra and Melbourne for passengers.
The other is the Inland Rail Project between Melbourne and Brisbane for freight.
The former is glamorous and attractive to people who might use it, but has an extremely weak economic case, particularly as the route is already well served by air, something which will only get better with the building of Sydney’s second airport.
The latter gets little public attention and very few people will actually travel on it, but its economic case is convincingly sound and ultimately it will greatly benefit many people.
Alas, freight does not vote, even if its efficient delivery improves the lives of those who do.
To build the former would be worse than useless. It would take valuable resources away from more worthwhile ones. Recently, the respected Grattan Institute produced some sobering and disheartening research on how badly Australia evaluates transport infrastructure. It looked at all 836 projects that cost $20 million or more since 2001. Premature announcements – when a politician promises to build a road, bridge or rail line without a funding commitment, often in the run-up to an election – caused three-quarters of the $28 billion in cost overruns, yet they comprised less than a third of the projects, the research found.
In short, when proper analysis is done before a commitment is given, projects generally run on time and on budget. The Grattan Institute said, “All main political parties have committed to sound planning of infrastructure, and to making decisions with broad social benefit, yet in practice they continue to promise projects that Infrastructure Australia (IA) has not evaluated or has already found to be not worth building.”
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has long supported IA and the need to do proper cost-benefit analyses, particularly as infrastructure funds are getting harder to find and the freight task in Australia is growing rapidly.
The ALC has a major role in making the public aware not only of the need to build the infrastructure required, but also of the need to avoid diverting precious funds into projects that have low or even negative economic return.
Ultimately, politicians in a democracy must make the decisions on what infrastructure to build. However, by ensuring the information is out there on how wasteful and irresponsible bad decisions can be, they can be constrained from making them.
Former Infrastructure Minister and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson has made a spirited case for the Inland Rail Project because IA has, on the most conservative projections, proved its economic value. Even such an obvious candidate as Inland Rail – connecting not just Melbourne and Brisbane but also, via Parkes, Adelaide, Darwin and Perth – faces political difficulty through lack of national coordination.
Anderson’s environmental and safety case for Inland Rail was also impressive, but without a national strategic context the argument is in danger of being lost.
Of course, Australia faces an extra difficulty beyond identifying economically sound infrastructure projects: a three-tier federal system of government – each having the capacity to make things difficult for the development of national infrastructure.
Local governments can impose load limits and curfews on their roads to appease their ratepayers, but at a cost to the national supply chain. They can also oppose freight-related proposals and allow development in places that should be preserved for future transport corridors.
A classic example is the opposition to the development of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in Western Sydney.
State governments can also change land uses and produce transport plans that end at their borders with the aim of serving their own cities and towns, without reference to national freight requirements.
This state of affairs cries out for the development of a coordinated national freight and supply chain strategy to embrace not only new infrastructure but also the uniform regulation of all transport modes to reduce compliance costs.
When people bemoan the lack of national productivity reform, the logical industry to take on a national focus is Australia’s freight industry, which represents 8.6 per cent of the national economy.
It obviously has to be led by the Federal Government, which raises about 70 per cent of revenue in Australia. If it lacks constitutional power to legislate, it can use its financial power to persuade. It can also persuade the states to rein in local governments’ predilection for ratepayer interests over national freight needs.
Some progress has been made with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator whereby a national scheme has begun using mirror state-by-state legislation.
Last year, further progress was made with the abolition of the Road Safety
Remuneration Tribunal, something ALC opposed from the beginning. The tribunal had less to do with road safety than with being an industrial-relations exercise on driver pay. Progress like this, however incremental, requires sustained, industry-wide, evidence-based advocacy. But there is a long way to go.
The crying need for a national freight and supply chain strategy has prompted ALC to make the theme of its annual ALC Forum this year: Getting the Supply Chain Right. This is not about ‘players’ in an industry. It is a highlevel, intelligent discussion about national functionality. In the past, the ideas emerging from the Forum have significantly influenced national thinking, and will continue to do so.
When issues are fleshed out in detail the results usually carry more weight.
A national freight and supply chain strategy must also deal with financing.
Corridors cannot be preserved and bottlenecks removed without money. There is no point in building a grand piece of infrastructure if the linking bits are missing.
In 2014 and 2015, ALC and others were promoting the use of ‘asset recycling’ as a means of getting more into the infrastructure funding pool. The idea was that governments would sell existing working assets and then use the money to invest in new infrastructure where the private sector was not willing or able to.
The advantage of governments doing start-ups is that it can get the finance using low interest rates and high credit ratings. It can sustain the great risk in any new infrastructure project. But once built and functioning, the government is often not especially good at running such infrastructure. Rules-based bureaucracies avoid risk, cover their patch and are not especially interested in seizing opportunities to innovate and expand. At that stage, governments should sell and use the money for the next initiative.
A national freight and supply chain strategy would provide a better framework for asset recycling.
The ALC has constantly urged that the provision of supply-chain infrastructure and logistics be above politics. The supply chain is national – the freight task is national. It does not stop at state borders and it requires vision that can be delivered by a national freight and supply chain strategy.
As cost pressures bite on suppliers to Australia’s major industries, safety can often be the first casualty of cutbacks to operating costs.
In very price-sensitive industries, such as transport, vehicle maintenance and logistics, cutbacks can lead to contractors turning to non-OEM parts for systems vital to road safety and on-time performance of vehicles.
Of all the trucks on the road today with air suspensions, more than half are equipped with Firestone Airide air springs. Airide air springs are sold directly to original equipment truck, trailer, and suspension manufacturers.
“Operators buying look-alike products are seldom making any savings at all really – they are just selling their risk management cheaply,” says Air Springs Supply sales manager Russell Chown. “Any small savings on products that don’t offer the same quality, performance and reliability as the genuine original can be wiped out in an instant by a single accident of downtime incident that puts a million-dollar truck off the road.”
Similar views are voiced by one of Australia’s most experienced specialist heavy brake companies, Australian Brake Controls (ABC) which produces transport, off-highway and industrial machinery braking systems engineered for optimum reliability and safety.
“We know it is tough out there for transport and off-highway equipment operators and we are sharing the pain with them,” says ABC Engineer Vinh Lam. “But cutting corners with lower-quality parts is no way to extend the value and life of vehicles and machinery costing hundreds and thousands and sometimes millions of dollars.”
Suspension and braking risks also exist for lighter vehicles. Vehicles without the right suspension components and setups for varying loads (such as a tank being progressively emptied in spraying operations), unevenly distributed loads or for towing can immediately experience a host of problems that compromise safety immediately and can ultimately wreck the vehicle involved.
“Not only can steering and braking be immediately compromised by poor load distribution, but also the chassis and tyres are placed under immense pressure by loading distortions,” says All Air Suspension Sales Manager James Maslin, a company that specialises in air helper suspensions for vehicles such as 4WD, utes, vans, and other machinery used for on and off-highway jobs and for towing. “Unevenly loaded vehicles can be subject to increased sway because of lateral forces, while trailer-imposed ball weight will cause headlights to shine up into the trees or blind other drivers. A perfectly good familiar vehicle can become a safety nightmare if its suspension is not properly set up to tow or cope with varying loads.”
Operating in conjunction with national air suspension specialist Airbag Man, All Air addresses these challenges with Ride-Rite, Coil-Rite and full air conversion kits manufactured in Australia incorporating Firestone airbags identical in construction to the Firestone airbags used in the suspensions of trucks and semi-trailers.
Road hazards can be a real problem for trucks and their tyres. Apart from the obvious safety issue, tyres and the need to change them represent a significant cost to the road transport industry.
But, if you are interested in saving money in this area, there is another big hazard to consider – tyre negligence. A lack of proper up-keep and maintenance leads to things like mis-matched dual tyres or mismatched pressures across dual tyres.
In turn, such lack of attention inevitably leads to tyres being consigned to the scrap heap with plenty of useable tread still on them.
Ferret.com.au has compiled a list of tyre ‘dos and don’ts’ for those in the trucking industry:
1) Tyre Selection
Running a tyre in the wrong application is one of the sure ways of damaging it. For example, tyres designed for on-highway use should not be used in an off-road environment.
Conversely, by using an application-specific tyre, you can help maximise a tyre’s performance and productivity.
2) Maintaining correct tyre pressure
Some blowouts just can’t be avoided; they are caused by hitting something on the road and maintaining the correct pressure will do nothing to stop them.
However, it is estimated that around 80% of blowouts are caused by incorrect tyre pressures.
Tyre pressure is something that needs to be checked and maintained at regular intervals. And there are systems available that alert drivers to incorrect tyre pressure readings.
But overall, regular maintenance is the real answer to this problem.
3) Mechanical problems
This covers a range of problems. Put simply, anything that prevents tyres from running smoothly, straight and true will damage them.
For example, fitting mismatched tyres of different makes or sizes is a sure way of consigning them to a premature retirement.
Similarly, misalignment is responsible for much premature wear. It can be caused by a number of factors, such as bad steering geometry or drive axles being out of alignment.
In addition, bent axles, axles that flex excessively or loose wheel bearings can result in rapid wear of the inner shoulder of the inner tyre on a dual wheel. And worn shock absorbers, which let tyres bounce more than they should, can affect the contact patch of the tyre.
A new government body will investigate the links between road safety and pay conditions of Australia’s truck drivers in a world first.
The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) released its first annual work programme on Monday, with the framework of the inquiry to look at conditions in the industry, pay and safety, SMH reported.
The RSRT have selected a number of sectors for investigation including retail, livestock, bulk grain and long distance.
A spokeswoman for RSRT said the inquiry was a world-first.
"It is a world first on a national scale," she said.
"Australia is really leading the way in this sort of tribunal to really look at the link between remuneration and safety in the road transport industry."
The Transport Workers Union said the investigation would help with road safety in the retail sector.
"We think this has got the real potential to change behaviour in really key supply chains in the industry," TWU assistant national secretary Michael Kaine said.
"Importantly the tribunal resisted the temptation to just deal discreetly with particular issues like waiting time or rates and have decided to take a sector by sector approach.
"The important thing is by taking a sector approach they're focusing on the entire supply chain and the pressures that lead to these issues in the first place."
Kaine pointed to the retail sector supply chain as setting unrealistic deadlines and said road safety issues around driver fatigue and the use of substances to stay awake was more prevalent in the sector.
"In the retail sector they will have squarely in their sights the commercial pressures put on the trucking industry by the likes of Coles and how to address those," he said.
The Australian Logistics Council said major retailers were supporting the program.
"The major retailers, like all parties in the supply chain, are committed to achieving positive road safety outcomes and to meeting their Chain of Responsibility obligations," ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff said.
"This is demonstrated by the retailers' participation in the ALC Retail Logistics Supply Chain Code of Practice.
"It should be noted there has been encouraging progress in recent years to reduce the number of heavy vehicle fatalities in Australia against the backdrop of an increasing freight task."
A West Australian truck driver’s road train rolled over after he battled with a swarm of bees that invaded his cab.
The driver is recovering in hospital with multiple fractures after the accident, The West Australian reported.
Police are investigating the accident which occurred on the Great Eastern Highway near Southern Cross, 370km east of Perth, on Thursday morning.
The driver told officers he was trying to swat the bees away when he lost control of his vehicle.
A crane was required to move the road train which blocked the road for several hours.
Image: All Freight Connect