SAFETY FIRST: Minister for Roads Luke Donnellan and Sal Petroccitto celebrate the launch of the NHVR's new free safety tools.
SAFETY FIRST: Minister for Roads Luke Donnellan and Sal Petroccitto celebrate the launch of the NHVR's new free safety tools. Graham Harsant

MEGATRANS: NHVR launches safety tools

MEGATRANS has quite a different bent to its predecessor, the Melbourne International Truck Show.

The show is about logistics. It's about rail, air and sea as well as roads. It's about components. It's about artificial intelligence that can benefit trucks, drivers and the public through advances in safety and design - which can be part of a new truck package and in many cases retrofitted.

Run over three days, the program started with a Victorian Government Ministerial Breakfast. Guest speaker Luke Donnellan, the state minister for ports, roads and road safety, talked of Victoria's position in the transport industry.

"Victoria is the freight logistics capital of Australia and home to the nation's busiest port. We have more square metres dedicated to warehousing than any other city and more semi-trailers are registered in Victoria than any other state.”

Driving freight costs down is high on the Victorian government's list of priorities with upgrading and standardising of the rail line service in the commodity producing areas in the north-west of the state. Streets and bridges on key arterials are being upgraded to boost the payload of road freight combinations. Current road projects are the biggest in the state's history with an investment of about $4.3 billion for better roads around Victoria.

The government is also putting aside $500,000 to review the training and licensing of truck drivers within the state. Industry has called for better standards to ensure the job of a truck driver is an attractive occupation and this funding seeks to do that. It will certainly be interesting to see what proposals the government may come up with in this area.

With new chain of responsibility provisions coming into effect later this year, the NHVR has done some significant work around safety management guidance material.

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto launched that material in conjunction with the minister. The material covers tools and techniques to help operators and has been developed with the assistance of the industry.

Applicable to one truck operator or a large multinational or anyone in the chain, it's easy to use and it's free.

Tony McMullan, CEO of the Truck Industry Council, spoke eloquently of technological advancements within the industry, government strides forward in infrastructure improvement and the need for the two areas to work harmoniously.

"The truck industry, like all industries today, is facing a new dawn brought about by the rate and scope of technology change occurring with each new model released. Telematics and vehicle tracking have changed the way in which transport companies schedule freight movements,” he said.

Tony McMullen, CEO of the Truck Industry Council.
Tony McMullen, CEO of the Truck Industry Council.

"The challenge at the moment is that this new technological era will require a new, innovative public policy framework. Current practices of developing policies and regulations in a linear, prescriptive model will need to evolve to meet the change occurring within the truck space for the benefit of the operator and the community at large.

"A good starting point is for a stronger engagement model - for example the truck technical experts and public servants, with the aim being to create policy options that present ministers with practical options for the achievement of the government's own strategic objectives.

"It is perhaps time that government policy-making was reinvented to embrace a model of policy co-creation, where because of the technological change, a more considered approach is adopted by governments to engage stakeholders in order to maximise the potential of the technological advances we face in all our industries, for the benefit of the operator, the customer and the community at large.

"Truck sales in Australia hit a peak in 2007 - pre GFC - when 38,131 new vehicles were delivered. If the pace of sales over the first quarter of 2018 continues for the remainder of the year, the 2007 record will be rewritten. The broader outlook though, for heavy vehicles in Australia is not as positive.

"An undeniable truth is that Australia has an old truck fleet when compared to those countries that we typically would compare ourselves to. The average age of today's trucks is 14.9 years. The trend is upwards and our truck fleet is getting older. The truck fleet of today is not as safe as it could be, not as environmentally friendly nor as productive. The age of the truck fleet, I would like to think, should be of concern to government.

"Almost 42 per cent were manufactured before 2003, and little or no exhaust emission standards applied. This 42 per cent of vehicles don't have any modern truck safety features fitted, such as front under protection or electronic stability control. In fact most of these trucks don't have any anti-lock braking systems. Technology introduced into new trucks takes decades to permeate the national fleet.

"Based upon current take-up rates and fleet age it would take until 2049 for 95 per cent of the fleet to be fitted with ESC and 2052 for 95 per cent of the fleet to be fitted with ABS and lane departure warning systems, given the best case scenario for regulation introduction.

"It has been a long road to recovery for truck sales in Australia. It will be a far longer road before we see a significant reduction in the age of the truck fleet.”

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