Formidable new voice for the road transport industry

Raod train.

A new voice for the trucking industry. 

(Image courtesy of the ARTA)

A membership amalgamation has heralded a new era for the trucking industry. 

Two national trucking organisations, NatRoad and the Australian Road Train Association (ARTA), have joined forces to set up what they claim is Australia’s foremost national heavy vehicle membership-driven representative body.

Under the agreement, their memberships will be combined under NatRoad Ltd, to be known as NatRoad, The National Road Transport Operators Association, Incorporating the Australian Road Train Association.

The new partnership is expected to create a more salient industry voice to advocate the interests of the industry to Australia’s policy-makers, and also to provide a widened range of services including assistance regarding fatigue management; occupational health and safety and risk management; industrial relations advice and representation; 24 hour / 7 day-a-week helpline; member workshops; and preferred supplier benefits.

“The partnership means coast-to-coast representation for heavy vehicle operators regardless of their type of operation, from coastal-based rigid vehicle owner-operators through to major fleet remote area road train operators,” NatRoad said.

NatRoad president Rob McIntosh said the amalgamation was an upshot of a long-standing relationship between the two grass root organisations.

“In reality, this move simply formalises what has long been a natural fit between the two organisations, whilst removing the duplication of policy development and membership services,” Mr McIntosh said.

NatRoad will shortly be writing to each financial member of the ARTA providing details of the change.

Winners of the forklift championship

Forklift Championships.

The winners of the first heat of the National Forklift Championships have been announced.

The Championships, hosted by the Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia (SCLAA), was designed to recognise the important of forklift operation and operators in the supply chain and logistics industry.

The focus of the competition is on accurate and safe driving skills and knowledge, not on speed. Competitors start with a score of 0 and receive points for any errors made, with the participant with the lowest number of points becoming the winner.

All participants will receive a certificate of participation, with the winner(s) receiving a $3,000 worth of prizes as well as a trophy.

The winners of Heat 1 are:

Victoria

1st    Craig Rickards, Woolworths

2nd   Jack Epifaniou, CSL Bioplasma

3rd   Shane Read, McCain Foods Australia

Queensland

Male Winner: Jason Fitzgerald, Sealy Australia

Female Winner: Katie Burrow, DHL

New South Wales

Male Winner: Michael Eden, Toll Refrigerated

Female Winner: Pamela Cifuentes, Simons Warehousing

Entries for the next rounds are open now.

Heat 2 – Counterbalanced forklift

Melbourne

20 January 2009

Ausfork Training Centre

193 Maidstone Street

ALTONA VIC

Ph (03) 9731 0456

Brisbane

30 January 2009

AIMM Industrial Training

Unit 26, 315 Archerfield Road

RICHLANDS QLD

Ph (07) 3375 6699

Sydney

27 January 2009

Schaefer Storage Systems

14 Church Road

MOOREBANK NSW

Ph (02) 9487 8794 (SCLAA)

Heat 3 – Reach truck forklift

Melbourne

24 February 2009

Ausfork Training Centre

193 Maidstone Street

ALTONA VIC

Ph (03) 9731 0456

Brisbane

3 March 2009

AIMM Industrial Training

Unit 26, 315 Archerfield Road

RICHLANDS QLD

Ph (07) 3375 6699

Sydney

10 March 2009

Schaefer Storage Systems

14 Church Road

MOOREBANK NSW

Ph (02) 9487 8794 (SCLAA)

Register to be a part of the National Forklift Championships simply by emailing: nsw@sclaa.com.au and ask for a registration form or call 02 9487 8794 SCLAA NSW.

The competition is supported by Schaefer Systems International and Hyster forklifts.

 

New technology to maximise road safety

Driver safety technology provider Minorplanet has launched a new system designed to help trucking companies ensure safe operations.

The company’s vehicle management information (VMI) system can measure the forces applied to a vehicle in three dimensions with its tri-axis accelerometer.

The system also integrates an incident buffer, which returns second-by-second data when triggered, helping operators and crash investigators determine the possible causes of an incident.

Minorplanet CEO Steve Green said the new technology would provide companies with an insight into the behaviour of their drivers, enabling them to maximise road safety.

 “Having clear records as a result of Minorplanet’s VMI system, drivers and operators will be better protected from legal entanglements as well as enabling compliance with recent changes in road and transport legislation,” Mr Green said.

The company said the buffer not only stores comprehensive information including vehicle location, speed, temperature and forces applied to the vehicle, but also detects erratic driving such as rapid acceleration, hard cornering and heavy braking.

Mr Green added the system could help businesses reduce fleet running costs and increase econ-efficiencies. 

Pacific Blue eyes bigger market in PNG

Virgin Blue’s international offshoot Pacific Blue has launched its first service between Brisbane and Port Moresby, seeking a bigger share of the growing PNG market.

The airline will operate four direct return flights a week between Brisbane and PNG, in future under code-share with Airlines PNG, using its Boeing 747-800 fleet.

The company’s chief executive Brett Godfrey said Pacific Blue was already successfully servicing five Pacific Island destinations, and launching services to PNG was a logical decision and a natural fit for the airline.

“There has been a strong economic and cultural relationship between Australia and PNG for years and the launch of our services to and from Papua New Guinea can only strengthen the connection between our two countries.

“We have no doubt the additional schedule choices Pacific Blue offers…will appeal to the leisure and VFR markets as well as to business travellers who make up 35 per cent of all travellers ex-Australia,” Mr Godfrey said.

Pacific Blue’s entry in to the market comes under a strategic partnership with PNG-based Airlines PNG

Airlines PNG chief executive John Fitzgerald said since late 2005, his company had already brought significant competition to international routes between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

“We’re pleased that the commencement of Pacific Blue operations will introduce a strong and successful regional competitor onto the Brisbane route,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“We are awaiting approval from PNG’s competition regulator, following which I am sure that we can look forward to a long and productive code-share partnership with Pacific Blue – a partnership that will see sustainable competition produce benefits for travellers between the two countries with greater choice in terms of product, schedules and air fares.”

Meanwhile, the Papua New Guinean Government is reportedly looking at luring another Australian airline, Sky Air World, in a bid to lift competition in the country’s aviation industry. Sky Air World provides services to Solomon Islands and Fiji.

TPG makes a $1 billion move on Asciano

Private equity consortium TPG has reportedly made a $1 billion share offer to Asciano, after its initial takeover proposal was thwarted three months ago.

According to The Australian Financial Review, TPG founder David Bonderman has recently flown from the US to Melbourne to put another proposal to buy more than $1 billion in Asciano shares.

The Texas-based consortium of TPG Capital and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) initially approached Asciano this August with a $2.9 billion “non-binding” offer, but the company rebuffed the proposal, saying the bid underestimated its true value.

At the company’s annual general meeting held two weeks ago, Asciano chairman Tim Poole had said: “The board absolutely believes that the current market price of Asciano securities in no way reflects the underlying value of Asciano’s businesses, in the same way that the indicative offer from TPG and GIP failed to recognise that true value.”

Asciano’s shares are now languishing at around $2.15, less than half of the takeover offer of $4.40 per security.

The paper said the cash-strapped company was likely to reject the new offer again as it intended to push through with its plans to raise $ 1 billion by asset sales or monetising.

It attempted to ease its debt burden through the underwritten security purchase plan in September, but secured only 10 per cent of the initial target.

Asciano, which owns some of Australia’s major transport assets including Pacific National, is reported to have a market value of $1.5 billion, while its debt amounts to almost $4.5 billion.

QR to spend its way to profit

National transport and logistics company QR has posted revenue of $3.5 billion in the 2007-08 fiscal year, up 11 per cent on the previous year, but said the result fell short of expectations.

It recorded net profit after tax of $194.5 million, a six per cent increase, carrying a record 245 million tonnes of freight.

QR chairman John Prescott said while the result was sound, returns were still inadequate to ensure the company’s commercial sustainability.

“Revenue was adversely affected by reduced production at mines in central Queensland after major flooding in the final six months of the financial year,” Mr Prescott said.

In a bid to lift its performance, the company spent a record $1.7 billion as part of its capital investment program, with a further $8 billion expected to be injected over the next five years.

“At a time of unprecedented levels of capital spending, QR is committed to improving its performance to achieve satisfactory returns for the people of Queensland,” he said.

Chief executive Lance Hockridge said the record spending in the year reflected its focus on safety improvements, commercial capability and growth opportunities.

“Strong improvements in these areas will genuinely position QR for long-term commercial success in a buoyant transport and logistics market, which is undergoing major transformation.”

The company carried a record 245 million tonnes of freight, while delivering $900 million of new infrastructure for the passenger and freight networks, a 300 per cent increase over two year.

“We are well positioned any very focussed to meet the challenges posed by the dramatic population growth in south-east Queensland and to seize the opportunities arising from the resources boom in Queensland and Western Australia, as well as the strong growth of the general freight market,” Mr Hockridge said.

He said QR’s restructure into freight, network, passenger and services this year was enhancing its customer focus, with new management appointments providing the desired combination of commercial capability and rail industry experience.

“We are reshaping and rebuilding the ‘new QR’ to fulfil our vision of becoming the leading transport and logistics company in the country,” he said.

Glebe Island to end vehicle trade services in November

Car imports into Sydney Harbour will officially end on November 16, with Port Kembla set to take over NSW’s vehicle trade.

Port Kembla Port Corporation has confirmed in a message to the car industry it had reached to an agreement with Australian Amalgamated Terminals, operator of the port’s new import facilities, to relocate all trade activities to Port Kembla from November 17.

Sydney Harbour’s Glebe Island and White Bay precinct, which has been responsible for all of the state’s ro-ro and vehicle trade, will no longer discharge vehicles after November 16.

Port Kembla will take over the trade with two dedicated berths, with some of the remaining operators already moving to the port.  

The port’s 105 berth is being extended by 80 metres, enabling the port to provide berths totalling 800 metres in length to accommodate up to three car-carrying vessels simultaneously.

Ports Minister Joe Tripodi said the new infrastructure would minimise congestion.

“The extension reduces the risk of vessel queuing at Port Kembla as we beef up its capacity to handle car imports,” Mr Tripodi said.

“About 30-40 per cent of cars coming to the port will be processed on site. Car importers will be able to send cars directly from the port to their final point of sale rather than having to first send them to a separate processing facility.”

It is estimated around 300,000 vehicles are shipped into NSW each year.

Airlines should pass on fuel savings: Fuel Trac

Despite a substantial fall in oil prices, Australian airlines are not passing fuel savings along to passengers, a fuel watchdog has argued.

The Brisbane-based Fuel Trac said while jet fuel prices have recently fell on international markets from USD 181 per barrel in July to USD 123 per barrel, airlines were not cutting their fuel surcharges.

“Let’s get honest and reduce those fuel surcharges when an international price moves down as substantially as it has done,” Fuel Trac spokesperson Geoff Trotter told ABC.

Mr Trotter said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) should investigate aviation fuel surcharges.

“Given that the ACCC is always interested in the linkages between international petrol prices and what happens to the Australian consumers, perhaps they should interest themselves in relation to those Australians that have to fly for business and for holidays, who have seen no substantial reduction in fuel surcharges despite this significant drop,” he said.

While Virgin Blue said the carrier would seek to cut its charge if the oil market gains more stability, Qantas argued the price of fuel still remained high and the market conditions were volatile.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the international aviation industry is projected to report expanded losses of USD 5.2 billion this year, still hit hard by oil prices.

“The difficult business environment is expected to continue”, IATA director-general Giovanni Bisignani told Reuters.

“We expect losses of USD 5.2 billion this year…With an expected oil price of USD 110 per barrel – USD 136 for jet fuel – and continued weak growth, industry losses are expected to continue at USD 4.1 billion in 2009.”

The IATA’s projection of industry losses has been reduced from USD 6.1 billion as oil prices have eased recently.

The industry posted profits of USD 5.6 billion last year.

Derailment halts SA-WA rail services

A freight train derailment in South Australia’s west has seriously damaged more than two kilometres of track, halting SA-WA rail services.

The intermodal train from Melbourne bound for Perth derailed on the rail line near Mount Christie in South Australia on Monday. 12 of the train’s wagons derailed, blocking the line.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has handed the site over to the Australian Rail and Track Corporation (ARTC) assessment team, who found the damage to the east and west end points was worse than expected.

“The extent of the ‘wagon fall’ from the derailment will require a significant recovery effort,” the ARTC said.

Over 2.2 kilometres of track and an additional 300 metres of track in another location was damaged, with some sections needing to be replaced.

The incident led to the cancellation of the scheduled passenger train services from Perth to Adelaide, with further cancellations expected.

The train’s operator Great Southern Rail said: “Guests booked to travel on the services are advised to contact us for updated information on service arrival and departure times.”

The ARTC said the damaged sections are expected to be open to traffic on Saturday.

“ARTC-led teams will work as swiftly as possible to remove the derailed wagons and repair the track,” it said.

It said an oncoming train was immediately halted and there were no injuries associated with the incident. 

Cash-strapped Asciano hires ABN Amro for $1b asset sales

Port and rail operator Asciano has appointed investment bank ABN Amro to advise it on $1 billion asset sale options, as the loss-making company seeks to obtain cash to pay down its debt.

According to The Australian Financial Review, the company came to look into the sell-off option as it was no longer able to use a project finance avenue to fund its development plans.

The asset sell-off would require approval from major lenders, who are holding the assets as security for the company’s $4.5 billion in loans.

After dismissing a $2.9 billion takeover bid from a US private equity consortium led by Texas Pacific Group (TPG), the company started processes to free up billions of dollars by selling stakes last month.

As part of its plan to raise cash, the company has launched a $91.1 million security purchase plan, enabling existing security holders to buy up new securities at a five per cent discount.

The struggling company has posted a net loss after tax of $182 million in the 2007-08 fiscal year, but said it is confident of a strong year backed by new coal and grain transport contracts.

The company’s chief executive Mark Rowsthorn said last month: “The coal business will continue to benefit from strong demand and high coal prices and we expect to see capacity constraints in the Hunter Valley network ease during the coming 12 months.

“Finally, the successful restructuring of Asciano’s grain business during the year will see a substantial recovery in the profit contribution of this business in 2008-09.”

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