Australia’s national truck laws must be substantially redrafted, the Australian Trucking Association said in response to the first issues paper of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review. Read more
Australia’s national science agency conducted a pilot study in 2018 using its computer logistics tool TraNSIT (Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool), along with extensive industry engagement, to focus on Parkes to Narromine in Central West NSW.
Researchers identified a baseline of existing freight movements in this area to estimate the potential transport cost savings for the entire Inland Rail project, marking the first time such a detailed analysis on road to rail supply chains in Australia has been completed.
They considered horticulture and processed agriculture such as meat, rice and dairy products.
The analysis showed if existing agricultural road trips were shifted to Inland Rail, the agricultural industry could save between $64 to $94 per tonne (depending on back-loading).
This equates to about $70 million in reduced transport costs per year based on the shift of 923,000 tonnes of horticultural and processed agriculture to the lower cost transport option that Inland Rail provides.
Additional analysis revealed that if existing coastal rail trips shifted to inland rail, this would result in an estimated saving of $28 to $35 per tonne.
“Our research has shown that Inland Rail would bring an improvement in rail travel time and transport cost, particularly important when considering perishable products.
This would make it a lot more competitive with the travel time advantages of road transport,” CSIRO TraNSIT leader Dr Andrew Higgins said.
Parkes to Narromine was chosen for the case study as it is the first section of track to undergo construction. There’s also a large number of supply chains in this pilot area involving hundreds of stakeholders.
“A big cost in food production is transport, particularly given the large distribution of where and when it is grown across Australia, and the long distances to major domestic markets, often over 1000 kilometres,” Dr Higgins said.
“These type of savings with Inland Rail would mean food companies would have lower cost access to markets further away than they supplied to in the past.
“The benefit is for those selling to market, basically large farming corporations, food companies and those behind processing facilities.
“You’d expect the savings would then be passed back onto farmers.”
The Australian Government has committed $9.3 billion to complete the 1,700 kilometre spine of Australia’s freight rail network that will connect Melbourne to Brisbane in under 24 hours.
As a next step, TraNSIT will now be applied to the broader Inland Rail corridor (commencing with the southern corridor from Narromine to Seymour) to obtain even more detailed cost savings across a broader range of commodities.
New commodities will include grains, cotton, livestock, wool, minerals and general freight.
TraNSIT has been used in previous research to test the benefits of transport infrastructure in regard to upgrading roads in Northern Australia, and calculating agriculture and forestry transport benefits for industry and various levels of government.
The TraNSIT computer modelling tool works by analysing every possible combination of transport routes and modes (road and rail) and determining those that optimise vehicle movements between enterprises in the agriculture supply chain.
More than 600 tradespeople have halted work on the WestConnex M4 East motorway tunnels at Haberfield on Friday following the release of an independent air monitoring report that recorded ‘extremely high’ fungal contamination and classified it as a ‘probable health risk’.
The Electrical Trades Union said the testing of the tunnels of the $16.8 billion motorway project recorded airborne fungal concentrations more than four times higher than the highest contamination category, while surface testing found rates more than five times what is considered ‘extreme contamination’.
The report, commissioned by management in response to safety concerns raised by workers about fungal contamination due to inadequate ventilation in the tunnels, not only stated that the contamination posed a probable health risk but also required ‘remediation or removal of all affected surfaces’.
ETU secretary Justin Page said workers were refusing to enter the tunnels due to the serious health risk posed by the air contamination.
“Workers have been raising concerns about moist conditions and inadequate ventilation combining to cause a serious mould problem in the tunnel, but no one realised just how bad the situation was or how great a health risk was posed until this testing was finally undertaken,” Mr Page said.
“After finally agreeing to undertake independent testing, management is now refusing to recognise the results that have shown extreme levels of contamination that are posing a significant risk to workers.
“This morning, management has continued to refuse to meet with workers to hear their concerns or outline a plan for removing this contamination from the tunnel, instead insisting workers go back into areas that have been identified as unsafe by the independent industrial hygienist.
“Our members need to know that they are not being exposed to a serious health risk before they return to working in what they now know is a dangerous and highly contaminated worksite.”
Mr Page said the NSW Government needed to get involved and identify how the fungal contamination would be remediated before commuters begin using the tunnels in the coming months.
“This is the signature infrastructure project of the NSW Government, yet from day one they’ve had a hands-off approach and refused to take charge of the very serious issues that have resulted in cost blowouts, poor planning and horrific workplace safety,” Mr Page said.
“The Berejiklian Government continues to put the safety of workers at risk rather than take action to address the serious issues facing this bungled project.
“Premier Gladys Berejiklian must take urgent steps to address these extreme fungal contamination before the general public begin using these tunnels, otherwise it risks becoming another mess like the light rail.”
Bridgestone Corporation (Bridgestone) has announced that its subsidiary Bridgestone Europe NV/SA will acquire TomTom Telematics, the digital fleet products business, for a cash consideration of €910 million (AUD 1.45 billion). The transaction is anticipated to be completed latest in the 2nd quarter of 2019, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions such as regulatory approvals.
TomTom is the number one provider of digital fleet products in Europe, a marketplace with very diverse in legal, commercial and cultural requirements. Its digital fleet business has successfully demonstrated its ability to operate in complex and demanding market environments and has continued to strengthen its potential to expand globally.
TomTom’s digital fleet product range offers a platform for connected vehicles enabling safer driving, improving productivity and optimising uptime for personal and commercial mobility. Combining this digital fleet business with Bridgestone’s tyre expertise and global service network creates an opportunity that accelerates the company’s effort to become a key partner in the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) landscape with leading tyre products and services.
In addition to reinforcing Bridgestone’s broad and leading portfolio, this strategic investment will also strengthen its position as an innovative leader in the field of tyre design, and tyre predictive maintenance service. Bridgestone will gain unprecedented insights into vehicle and tyre operating conditions and be able to leverage a growing installed user base of 860,000 vehicles communicating 200 million data points per day.
With this acquisition, Bridgestone adds core components to its Tyre and Diversified Products as a Solution (Bridgestone T&DPaaS) strategy.
NatRoad president Allan Thornley has met with Shadow Assistant Minister for Road Safety Senator Sterle. Discussions encompassed the abolished Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, the industry’s payment terms and working together to get more young people into the road transport industry.
Allan Thornley said: “It’s critical that political parties of all colours support the toughening of chain of responsibility laws. We can never have another RSRT, which was ill conceived. Any future regulation in this space needs careful consideration to achieve bipartisan political and industry support.
“Senator Sterle was keen that the industry work with him and other members of the Australian Labor Party to change the face of our regulation,” said Mr Thornley.
Senator Sterle said: “I will always be a champion for the transport industry. The RSRT as a model didn’t work. We won’t rush into a new model that doesn’t work. I’m going to bring in safe rates, I’m going to do this and I’m going to do it properly,” he said.
Discussion encompassed a number of areas where NatRoad and Senator Sterle were in agreement. These matters included:
- Making 30 day payments a mandated minimum.
- Introducing a trade recognised skill of heavy vehicle driving.
- Establishing a plan to get more young people to join the industry and increasing the industry’s diversity.
- Setting up a working group to look at any mandated rates scheme before a new system is put in place.
Allan Thornley said: “We also reached agreement on the fact that enforcement of the law is critical. The industry must hold regulators to account. Parties must know that enforcement up the chain is likely and therefore regulators must allocate enough resources to enforcing the new CoR laws and any new regulation. Truck drivers should be able to report breaches of laws that impact on their safety without adverse consequences.
“We want to continue to engage with dedicated industry supporters like Senator Sterle,” Mr Thornley concluded.
Right direction, wrong approach: union
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the owners’ organisation could deliver many solutions to the industry but instead keeps talking about what it opposes.
“NatRoad says that it wants 30-day payments mandated. Then it must explain to its members and the wider industry why it opposed a system that was delivering this for owner drivers and that was examining an application from the TWU to extend this guarantee to all transport operators. Transport operators would have 30-day payments by now, instead of remaining at the mercy of big corporations that refuse to pay for work carried out for up to 120 days.
“Since the RSRT has been pulled down nothing has been achieved by the likes of NatRoad to improve our industry. There has been no increase in rates and unpaid work, waiting time and financial insecurity are still major problems. Transport operators are still being forced into insolvency at higher rates than most other industries because the margins are so tight. In the 2017 financial year, 469 companies entered into external administration in the transport, postal and warehousing industries. Of those, 65% were businesses that employed fewer than five employees. The main reason for the insolvencies was inadequate cash flow.
“Companies and their clients still aren’t held to account when drivers get pressured into gruelling work practices. In fact, clients have in the last two years been given a green light to heap the pressure on even more. Aldi has been emboldened to take the union to the Federal Court to try and stop drivers speaking out about rates and conditions in their supply chain.
“Of course the slaughter is also still continuing. Deaths from truck crashes are still far too high while truck drivers are still more likely to be killed at work than any other profession.
“The push for Safe Rates is simply about fairness.
“It says transport operators and drivers have the right to earn a living without being pushed into bankruptcy by wealthy companies at the top which pay their chief executives millions. It says drivers have the right to be paid for all the work they do and to be safe in their jobs. It says all road users have the right not to be killed and injured on the roads because safety got cut because of costs. It says the wealthy companies at the top can no longer escape the responsibility of their effects on our industry.”
The Toll Group has unveiled its first-ever Australian control room in Melbourne that the company says will enable improved safety and more efficient deliveries throughout the country.
Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the control room is the new nerve centre for Toll’s national road network, responsible for monitoring fleet location, delivery times, engine performance, driver fatigue and distractions, speed events, and incident analysis – all in real time.
Toll president of group operational services, Peter Stokes said the control room puts Toll at the forefront of transport technology.
“The new Toll Control Room is a major milestone for our company and the businesses we support throughout the country,” Mr Stokes said.
“Using data and digital technologies, the control room allows the Toll team to view and respond to any safety or operational issue across the country.
“Our team now has the very latest technology at their fingertips, enabling them to safely monitor and move our fleet across our national network like never before, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The new centre is an investment in the future of our transport network and will ensure Toll continues to deliver strong results for safety and on-time deliveries.”
The control room features a massive video wall with a 9.5 metre interactive touch LED display screen – the largest in Australia and one of the largest of its kind in the world. Smart software integrates data from multiple sources including Toll’s in-truck telematics, which is then displayed and interacted with at the screen.
The new control room comes as Toll gears up ahead of the busy peak holiday season, where the number of linehaul movements is expected to surge by up to 40%.
The control room is staffed by 24 specialist analysts, planners and operational personnel.
Toll also announced that it will partner with the Australian Government under a new telematics data sharing project that aims to improve road safety and infrastructure planning.
Among the technical features of the control room are:
- The first Australia-wide control room for Toll.
- Comprehensive monitoring of biometric eye-tracking technology that detects driver distractions and potential fatigue.
- Connection to GPS-enabled telematics to track truck location, and monitor driving hours to help manage fatigue.
- Oversees telematic systems to improve truck and operator performance to reduce fuel usage and carbon emissions.
- Remotely monitors road speed data in real time allowing intervention if necessary.
- LED interactive display technology for enhanced operator collaboration.
The control room is part of Toll’s broader eight-year, $1.6 billion investment in new fleet and equipment.
Image: Most likely automation scenario, absent policy intervention.
University of Pennsylvania sociologist Steve Viscelli has conducted a thorough study into driverless trucks and has just released his final report Driverless? Autonomous Trucks and the Future of the American Trucker.
The study was conducted on behalf of the Centre for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Berkeley, and Working Partnerships USA, and questioned whether autonomous trucks will mean the end of the road for truck drivers. His findings are summarised below.
Will autonomous trucks mean the end of the road for truck drivers? The USD 740-billion-a-year US trucking industry is widely expected to be an early adopter of self-driving technology, with numerous tech companies and major truck makers racing to build autonomous trucks. This trend has led to dozens of reports and news articles suggesting that automation could effectively eliminate the truck-driving profession.
By forecasting and assessing multiple scenarios for how self-driving trucks could actually be adopted, this report projects that the real story will be more nuanced but no less concerning.
Autonomous trucks could replace as many as 294,000 long-distance drivers in the US, including some of the best jobs in the industry. Many other freight-moving jobs will be created in their place, perhaps even more than will be lost, but these new jobs will be local driving and last-mile delivery jobs that — absent proactive public policy — will likely be misclassified independent contractors and have lower wages and poor working conditions.
Throughout this transformation, public policy will play a fundamental role in determining whether we have a safe, efficient trucking sector with good jobs or whether automation will exacerbate the problems that already pervade some segments of the industry. Trucking is an extremely competitive sector in which workers often end up absorbing the costs of transitions and inefficiencies. Strong policy leadership is needed to ensure that the benefits of innovation in the industry are shared broadly between technology companies, trucking companies, drivers, and communities.
The findings are based on in-depth industry research and extensive interviews with the full range of stakeholders: computer scientists and engineers, Silicon Valley tech companies, venture capitalists, trucking manufacturers, trucking firms, truck drivers, labour advocates and unions, academic experts, and others.
How many will go – 294,000 or 2.1 million?
Prior studies and news stories have suggested that nearly all of the roughly 2.1 million heavy-duty truck drivers in the United States could lose their jobs to automation. However, that number includes many industry segments that are unlikely to be automated in the near future, such as local pickup and delivery and carriers using specialised equipment. This report finds that the jobs most at risk of displacement are long-distance driving jobs with few specialised tasks, representing about 294,000 drivers.
What is likely to happen?
This study is based on an analysis of six potential scenarios for how self-driving technology could be used in the trucking industry. The scenarios are the result of interviews with engineers, developers, trucking firms, and drivers, along with reviews of industry trade literature.
Human–human platooning. A series of human-driven trucks would be electronically linked, with the lead truck controlling speed and braking in the following truck(s). This approach would let the trucks travel much closer together on the highway, improving aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. Each truck would still have a human driver to maintain the lane and navigate local streets.
Human–drone platooning. Similar to the human–human platoon, except that a single human driver would lead a platoon of autonomous drone trucks on the highway. The human driver would be available to operate the lead truck, manage unexpected situations, or make repairs and ensure safety if a truck broke down mid-route. As in the exit-to-exit scenario below, local drivers would bring loads to an autonomous truck port (ATP) near the highway, where they would swap trailers with the drone trucks for the highway platoon.
Highway automation + drone operation. Human operators would remotely control trucks on local streets and in complicated situations, and then trucks would drive autonomously on the highway. This approach would rely on highly trained dock staff to handle tasks currently performed by drivers, such as inspection and coupling.
Autopilot. Similar to autopilot in airplanes, a human would handle loading and local driving, then sleep in the back of the truck while the computer drove on the highway.
Highway exit-to-exit automation. Human drivers would take care of non-driving tasks and navigate complicated local streets, then swap trailers with self-driving trucks at an ATP next to the highway. The autonomous truck would handle the long-distance freeway driving, then hand off the load at an ATP near the destination.
Facility-to-facility automation. In situations where warehouses and shipping facilities are located near major interstates, autonomous trucks may be able to handle industrial roads (where there are few pedestrians and complex intersections) and drive directly from origin to destination.
Absent significant changes in the policy or economic context, this report concludes that highway exit-to-exit automation is the most likely scenario to be widely adopted in the future. However, human-led platoons represent a model that has fewer technological challenges, a strong economic case, and better jobs for long-distance drivers.
The planned independent price regulator for truck charges must have the power to regulate toll road and landside port charges. Extra local government road use charges must be banned, the chairman of the Australian Trucking Association Geoff Crouch said.
The Australian Government issued a consultation paper last month on establishing an independent price regulator for the fuel-based road user charge and the very high registration charges paid by trucking operators. The ATA has now published its submission.
“Our members are being hammered by rapidly increasing toll road charges, landside port charges and local government charges,” Mr Crouch said.
“On the M7 in Sydney, for example, truck tolls have increased from the same amount as cars to three times the car toll. Trucking businesses can’t avoid these tolls – it’s not like you can transport a pallet of cleaning products on a bus or bike.
“The ACCC’s announcement that it would not oppose the Transurban consortium bid for WestConnex, followed by the NSW Government’s announcement that the bid was successful, confirms that new laws are needed to control these spiralling charges,” he said.
Mr Crouch said the independent regulator should also have power over landside port charges.
“Landside port surcharges have increased dramatically. Surcharge increases introduced in 2017 have ranged from $20 to $30 per container, and in some cases have increased twice within the one year,” he said.
“In the latest round of unwarranted charge increases, local councils in Western Australia are imposing additional access charges on heavy vehicle operators.
“The ATA submission points to one metropolitan example where a company has had to abandon operating at concessional mass limits because of the excessive local government charges. As a direct result, it now runs an additional 1,420 truck movements per year within the council area for a single product line.
“These ridiculous charges have to stop. The planned independent price regulator must be responsible for regulating toll road and landside port charges. Independent price regulation must also prevent local councils for charging extra for access to their roads.”
The ATA submission rejects the Government’s plan to change the way charges are calculated from the current PAYGO model to a forward-looking cost base.
You can read the ATA submission here.
The federal government has released a new reform package aimed at phoenix activity among businesses in transport and logistics and other sectors, but an insolvency law expert has said it won’t fix the problem.
The government said its reforms would “deter and disrupt the core behaviours of illegal phoenixing”, which involves transferring the assets of a failed company to another company that has no liabilities.
The key elements of the government’s draft legislation are:
- Creating new phoenix offences to target those who engage in and facilitate illegal phoenix transactions.
- Preventing directors from backdating their resignations to avoid personal liability.
- Preventing sole directors from resigning and leaving a company as an empty corporate shell with no directors.
- Restricting the voting rights of related creditors of the phoenix company at meetings regarding the appointment or removal and replacement of a liquidator.
- Making directors personally liable for GST liabilities, as part of extended director penalty provisions.
- Extending the ATO’s existing power to retain refunds where there are outstanding tax lodgements.
However, insolvency law expert and Sewell & Kettle principal Ben Sewell said the government’s draft legislation loses sight of what a reform package should be about.
“There is no chance that this will dent the scale of phoenix activity in Australia. Phoenix operators will be able to continue business as usual with minimum fuss,” he said.
“Fair play to the government for these reforms, but what about the big picture? For example, the policing of phoenix activity is still left to ASIC and company liquidators – both of whom are underfunded and don’t have much of a track record for pursuing phoenix activity.
“What has really changed? Not much. There isn’t any funding for regulation and there isn’t a definition of what phoenix activity actually is. If a liquidator has no funding when they’re appointed, no one can compel them to investigate and pursue phoenix activity.”
Mr Sewell noted that prominent academic research has been highly critical of the government’s approach to phoenix activity in the past.
“A well-respected group of academics called the Phoenix Research Team recently produced three important research papers into phoenix activity. They called for a new definition of phoenix activity, active enforcement and new legislation. The key recommendations have not been pursued by the government,” he said.
“I predict a small change but the difficult choices that the Phoenix Research Team recommended have not been followed by the government. The government hasn’t even defined phoenix activity in the legislation. Serious researchers of phoenix activity know that more specific legislation and policy are required.”
McColl’s Transport, claimed to be Australia’s largest independent bulk liquid logistics company, is under new ownership.
Led by former McColl’s CEO Simon Thornton, the Australian investment group Friesian has purchased the 66-year-old business from private equity firm KKR and fund manager Allegro.
Mr Thornton has returned to manage the company.
“McColl’s is a solid business with good values,” Mr Thornton said. “It has a great team and we see strong prospects for growth over the medium and long term.”
“The members of Friesian see McColl’s as a long-term business to own and nurture and we are excited about the future.
“We see opportunities in the dairy and chemical sectors and want to position McColl’s to integrate itself more closely with its clients.”
McColl’s new board is made up of Simon Thornton, corporate lawyer James MacDonald and corporate advisor Mark Mentha.
“The new ownership group is made up of experienced and reputable Australian business leaders whose expertise will contribute to McColl’s success,” Mr Thornton said. “I’m excited about ‘coming home’ to lead McColl’s as a well run, well capitalised business.”
McColl’s has reported a solid performance this year across its three divisions. In the past six months, the company has purchased 49 new prime movers, 10 road trains and 13 tankers with plans for a step-up in fleet and infrastructure investment over the next three years to meet customer demand.