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Trailer coupling alert

An alert has been issued by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator after the crash in Victoria in recent weeks, when a dog trailer separated from the truck and killed three people in two cars. This is the first such alert the NHVR has issued since taking responsibility for regulating the trucking industry earlier this year.


“Our mission is to facilitate, innovate, regulate and issuing timely safety advice to industry is one of the key tasks of a national regulator,” said Sal Petroccitto, NHVR CEO. “Our advice to operators who are working with dog trailers, pig trailers and road train dollies is that they should read this safety advice closely and should consider actions they can take to assure the integrity of their trailer or dolly coupling systems, with a particular focus on the tow eye fitment.


“Our safety and compliance alert outlines the facts so far and identifies issues for operators to consider should they undertake inspections. I need to stress that the frontline investigation continues to be led by Victoria Police and we are providing this advice without comment as to any contributory cause to the collision.


“As a national regulator, we are very aware that safety doesn’t stop at the border. We are working with our frontline compliance arms in all states to make sure the right information is shared across all agencies and to determine what coordinated action authorities can take to prevent this happening again. I acknowledge the support of Victoria Police and the Victorian Transport Industry Enforcement Liaison Committee for their support in preparing our first safety alert.”


The alert itself explains the accident was caused when the coupling between the tanker and tanker trailer failed. It was fitted with a typical tow eye bolt connected to an auto-tow coupler on the truck. Investigators have found the thread on the nut and the rear of the bolt has failed, resulting in the he tow eye bolt pulling out from the tow eye housing block on the drawbar of the trailer.


Truck and dog, and road train, operators are urged to ensure their maintenance system will detect any looseness in the fitting of a tow eye. The NHVR experts suggest this component is not easily tested by hand and any looseness may not be visible when a trailer is stationary after braking.


The NHVR also recommends operators take the opportunity to review how their inspection system detects other possible issues, such as cracks in the tow eye housing block or any kinks or cracks in the drawbar. It also suggests they consider voluntarily fitting supplementary chains (safety chains) to heavy trailer drawbars.


The alert can be downloaded at the NHVR website. 

Last mile reform sought

After the NSW Government asked the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to look into reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens for business and the community, an initial report has been published. Read more

Talking Turkey About Trucking

It’s a numbers game

In the aftermath of recent accidents and compliance campaigns by roadside enforcement, one of the things given to the press is the percentage of raw numbers of defects or notices issued. These figures are always given out without context and used to create unrest in the general public.


A recent interview with one of those figures involved in a lot of these stories, Paul Endycott, General Manager of Compliance Operations at RMS, actually brought out some figures and the relative proportions of offences. By giving fuller disclosure we do get a better idea about what’s going on out on the highway than the random numbers thrown out in the media, like the seven maintenance items identified in the VicRoads sweep of the BP truck fleet after the accident in Wodonga last week.


In the past year Roads and Maritime Services in NSW have inspected 559,903 trucks and trailers. Of these 72,787 were issued defect notices. This may appear, at first glance, as a high figure but it is worth remembering the relatively low level of fault which can attract a notice. Also, since the introduction of the National Heavy Vehicle Law there are no warnings issued, they go straight to a notice.


The numbers can be used to suggest bad practice, but everyone in the industry knows, there is no way 13 per cent of trucks on the road are in a dangerous condition. The reasons given for the defect notices being issued shown issues ticked off by the RMS are all over the vehicle.


21 per cent of the notices were for brake issues, 19 were called ancillary faults, body and chassis issues made up 18 per cent and wheels made up 16 per cent. At a lower level again, oil and fuel leaks, as well as suspension issues made up eight per cent each.


When it comes to breach reports, three per cent of the over half a million trucks had one issued. The vast majority of these were for mass offences.


Look at those figures from a trucking industry point of view and it all looks reasonably OK. Yes, we could all do a little better, but this is the real world. The RMS are seen to be getting very finicky in their inspections, just looking to rack up defect numbers in order to demonstrate how well they are doing their job.


However, put these numbers into the wrong hands of the spin doctors and we have a different kind of game altogether. All they need is to throw in a few choice adjectives and the fear and loathing of the general public for the trucking industry can get inflamed.


‘A massive 13 per cent of all trucks stopped on NSW highways were found to be faulty’ is the kind of hyperbole we could see. ‘Over one-in-five trucks were found to have defective brakes’ might also make an appearance. Be afraid, be very afraid!

Talking Turkey About Trucking

There’s talking tough, and there’s being tough

When the fine was handed down for Lennons Transport, the $1.3 million amount was heralded by the NSW Roads and Freight Minister’s press department as, “Toughest truck compliance and enforcement regime in Australia secures historic fine.” Read more

Freight on the move

Here’s a video extolling the importance of the freight industry to the Australian economy at the same time as publicising the work of the Australian Logistics Council. Some great points are made here about just how important freight is to our wellbeing. Read more

Talking Turkey About Trucking

Damned with faint praise

The National Transport Commission (NTC) and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has issued the first phase in the ‘Heavy Vehicle Roadworthiness Report of Current Practice’. The report goes into lengthy descriptions of how the different ways of ensuring safe trucks on our roads work, but one of the points it returns to is the fact, none of the current ways the different states monitor truck maintenance work particularly well.


An issue it does mention, without commenting on, is the variation, state by state, in the way truck maintenance is regulated. Surprisingly, for a combined effort from two national bodies which espouse the idea of a single national standard for the trucking industry, they fail to hit home the obvious point, a single way of regulating maintenance across Australia would benefit everyone, except the bureaucrats in the various state capitals. Many fleets move from state to state and have depots around the country, the simple act of trying to remain compliant with the plethora of different rules diverts resources from simply keeping the trucks well maintained.
The National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) is damned with faint praise by the report. The NHVAS is the baby of the state regulators and, as such, can get in the way of truly national regulation of maintenance. It may be the same for everyone but is policed in a myriad of ways in the states. The NHVR and NTC hold back from out right criticism of NHVAS but the message is not good.
“At this stage, data collection methods do not yield sufficient, reliable data to reach a conclusive determination about whether the NHVAS provides an effective mechanism for achieving road safety outcomes relative to its objectives,” says the report.


The question of how the auditing process works has always been a grey area for the NHVAS and the provisions of the National Heavy Vehicle Law (NHVL), which the NHVR is set up to administer, does not help the improvement of secure auditing outcomes.


“The HVNL contains provisions allowing for the recognition of auditors, but provisions for the governance, accountability or liability of auditors are not included in the legislation nor the NHVAS Business Rules which set out the high level policies and process for the Scheme,” says the report.


Here is a recommendation the trucking industry needs to push for in the lead up to the second phase of this reporting process, get the law sorted out! The second phase will include how to move forward from the current regime to improve outcomes. This is where the trucking industry needs to speak with one voice and push for the kind of reform we must have, or we will remain the whipping boys, in terms of truck safety, for the enforcement agencies.


Most agree accreditation is the way forward, but the only way accreditation actually works is if it has credibility. This is the touchstone for all of the various accreditation schemes around the country, for some more than others. Credible auditing and transparent maintenance regimes breed confidence. When credibility is lacking the kind of actions by the NSW RMS in the wake of the Cootes tanker accident are always going to happen.


Roadside enforcement will harass a truckie at the roadside even if all of the certificates for all manner of things are present and correct. The result, antipathy and downright aggression between the two parties. Complain about harassment and the authorities can rightly point to transgressions by other operators with similar accreditation. Get the accreditation right at the ground level so it is as watertight as possible then roadside enforcement will have to back off and concentrate on the ones they should really be after, the cowboys who are out there taking the piss out of us all!


Diary deadline getting closer


Every truck driver needs to have upgraded to the new work diary by August 10 this year. The new National Driver Work Diary was introduced back in February and the six month introduction period ends in just over three weeks.


“The commencement of the Heavy Vehicle National Law earlier this year saw the new work diary roll out in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, but we wanted to give industry time to make the change,” said Sal Petroccitto, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator CEO. “Already, more than 67,000 new work diaries have been sold around the country, but I urge drivers travelling in and through these states who have yet to start using the diary to pick up a copy as soon as possible.”


Screenshot 2014-07-18 07.59.27


The four states mentioned by Petroccitto are those where the new national fatigue laws apply and, in those states all truck drivers who drive more than 100 km from their home base or operate under Basic Fatigue Management or Advanced Fatigue Management need to record their work and rest times in the newly designed work diary.


For just $20 drivers can have the pleasure of working with the redesigned book. Some aspects of the old work diary which caused issues in the past have been changed. For information on exactly how to use the new diary go to the NHVR website or phone the direct at 1300 696 487.


Talking Turkey About Trucking

Darth Vader at the NTC

Comments attributed to the CEO of the National Transport Commission (NTC), Paul Retter, this week, have him saying, “I’ll be like Darth Vader entering the arena”. This kind of talk is not out of character as earlier this year, at the LBCA Conference in Tamworth, he talked about NHVAS maintenance being a joke which the NTC needs to fix.


This is the kind of talk needed from someone in his position. We have been hedging around these issues for too long and now it’s about time the truth was told and the issues faced head-on. The issue where Retter plans to do his Darth Vader impersonation is on access for higher mass vehicles and the intransigence of the road managers.


Retter can’t do this on his own. As he says, “I’ll need industry’s help to do this because, trust me, this is cultural change 101 when it comes to road infrastructure managers.” What is needed is dropping the petty rivalries. Industry, policy makers and regulators need to demand a sensible approach from the protectors of OUR infrastructure.


This is all about getting the road managers to take on a new philosophy and a risk based approach to access for trucks. In the past, calculations were done, bridges assessed and a formula used to work out mass and dimension rules for a particular road. The arithmetic included an assumption trucks would be way overloaded on some occasions and was also a very conservative estimate of the stress any road would come under.


The world has changed, there is onboard mass monitoring on each axle and systems guaranteeing no overloading on set routes. However, the calculations are still done the same way with a unsustainable margin for error. The way Retter sees it the process needs to work in the opposite direction. Access should be a given unless there is evidence to the contrary. The default setting should be yes, unless there’s a good reason why it should be no.


NatRoad CEO, Chris Melham has come out this week in support, “The NTC is right in calling for a risk-based approach to road asset use and maintenance. Realistic and practical solutions need to be found that deliver to the community the efficiency and productivity benefits that improved access can provide.”


In fact, everyone with an interest in this subject has an incentive to get the way we look at access changed. For trucking it is a matter of much improved productivity, for the NTC this productivity increase is part of their KPIs, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator needs to show it has some rational control of access and state government’s life would be much easier if they put the road managers back in their box.


Can we get this up? Why not? A single rational approach, with trucking demonstrating a united, responsible approach would give the law makers something to work with. We get our house in order and we will leave the road managers without a leg to stand on in their dogged opposition to progress.


Progress has to come, a crisis in infrastructure availability, and consequently the economy, is looming. Let’s get in there and be part of the solution, plus, get vastly increased productivity as part of the bargain. Retter is talking the kind of talk trucking needs to hear, we need to get involved and help him make it happen.

Good news from NSW


Sometimes there is some good news for trucking in NSW. This week it is a clarification on a part of the law where operators were not quite sure where they stood. Under NSW transport law road trains were not only subject to a 90 km/h speed limit but required to be speed limited to 90 km/h.


Roadtrain operators pic c


This gave operators little flexibility within the fleet when the prime mover is used elsewhere in a fleet, i.e. not pulling a road train. However, a recent enquiry to the powers that be in NSW by the Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association has received a reply which has cleared up the issue.


When NSW transport law was superseded by the National Heavy Vehicle Law the requirement to limit the trucks to 90 km/h no longer applied. Now a fleet can limit all of their trucks to 100 km/h but ensure they don’t exceed 90 km/h when hauling a road train, like in the rest of the country.


According to the RMS the relevant rule is in clause 7 of the National Road Train Notice which states: “A road train operating in New South Wales must not exceed a speed of 90km/h or any lower speed limit specified for a route in the “condition” column in Appendix 1 (a), (b)or (c)to this Schedule, that applies to the vehicle.” Is that clear enough?