Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack at the safety summit
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack at the safety summit

Safety summit critical for trucking industry

MORE than 300 people from across the supply chain participated in the 2018 ALC and ATA Supply Chain Safety and Compliance Summit, which identified key areas and issues for industry and governments alike to focus on in the pursuit of enhanced safety outcomes.

Jointly hosted by the Australian Logistics Council and the Australian Trucking Association, the Summit was held at Melbourne Park on 5-6 September, and was the last major industry event held prior to the commencement of changes to the Chain of Responsibility provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law on October 1.

As the Summit's opening video noted, it is vital that these changes are well understood by all industry participants. Through better compliance, we can provide safer workplaces and a safer environment for all road users.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear directly about initiatives to improve heavy vehicle safety from leading government figures, including the Deputy Prime Minister and Minster for Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Development, Michael McCormack MP, and Victoria's Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donnellan MP.

A series of keynote addresses also explored opportunities to create a safer environment for heavy vehicle operators and for all road users by taking advantage of improving technology, promoting a positive safety culture in workplaces and ensuring everything possible is done to protect the physical and mental well-being of the dedicated professionals who keep the nation's heavy vehicle fleets moving.

The Summit also focussed heavily on the industry-wide Master Code for heavy vehicle safety, which has been jointly developed by ALC and the ATA over the past year, setting out how it can be used by all supply chain participants with CoR obligations to manage risks in their own operations.

Through a series of panel discussions and interactive workshops, Summit participants identified a number of key developments and areas for industry to address in order to deliver better supply chain safety.

ALC and ATA summit
ALC and ATA summit

The major issues and areas for further action identified were as follows:

1.    End-to-end supply chain collaboration on safety is vital. More needs to be done to demonstrate that an effective approach to managing safety risks not only delivers better safety outcomes, but also greater efficiencies for operators and for customers.

2.    The Master Code is relevant to all parts of the industry, including smaller operators. ALC and the ATA should continue working to demonstrate how the Master Code embodies a practical approach to the management of safety risks, which will help demystify many of these issues for smaller operators.

3.    Increasing duplication throughout the auditing system for heavy vehicles is having a detrimental impact and must be addressed. Industry, customers and the wider community will be better served by a system that is less focussed on 'box ticking', and instead does more to embrace the practical, real-world experience of drivers in managing safety risks.

4.    Jurisdictional inconsistencies in the enforcement of CoR and the HVNL remain a significant frustration. Leading industry bodies such as ALC and the ATA should lead efforts to ensure compliance authorities understand how consignors and consignees are managing risks - and ensure those efforts are being recognised when it comes to enforcement.

5.    Executive level recognition of the importance of CoR will drive better safety. When a company's leadership shows they 'get it', it drives cultural change throughout an organisation. ALC and the ATA can play a role in helping executives understand that demonstrating compliance with their safety obligations is not merely a legal requirement, but offers tangible business benefits.

6.    Statistics on heavy vehicle safety need to be presented more effectively. The tendency to assume that the heavy vehicle is at fault in every incident has a bearing on the industry's social licence. Industry should work with authorities to ensure the statistics present a more accurate picture, and develop strategies to ensure passenger vehicles share the road with heavy vehicles more safely.

7.    There needs to be far more honest conversation about mental health in the industry. Driving is a solitary activity that necessitates a lot of time away from homes and families. Industry organisations need to work collaboratively on initiatives that remove the stigma around talking about mental health challenges. Developing programs that equip the industry's workforce with tools needed to deal with mental health issues effectively must be a top priority.

8.    Improving technology should be embraced by all in the effort to save lives on our roads. This includes promoting much greater uptake of telematics, in-vehicle cameras and the development of consistent data standards that will promote enhanced safety right though the supply chain, assist with business management and promote better infrastructure investment (including rest stops).

The priorities set out above emerged thanks to two days of vigorous and honest discussions by Summit attendees of the major safety challenges facing those who operate and work with heavy vehicles throughout our supply chains.

Through our respective policy and advocacy activities, ALC and the ATA will work to promote the development of practical solutions to the challenges identified - and will work to build on the collaborative spirit that was a hallmark of this Summit.

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