Down Under Trucking: a submerged stinky truck and a call for humane treatment of truckers

A sewage truck met a watery end in New South Wales; regulators in NSW have created improved port access for trucks; National Transport Commission overhauls assurance framework; ATA wants truck drivers to be treated humanely; K&S announces profit slump and sale of Regal General Freight.

Stinky truck met a watery end

A commercial barge that was carrying a sewage truck that was, in turn, carrying 10,000 litres (2,641.7 gallons) of liquid sewage overturned and sank to the seabed near the Australian coast.

NSW authorities installed a boom around the site to contain what is thought to be 1,500 litres of diesel and 400 litres of hydraulic fluid. A slight sheen was seen on the water around the site but there was no impact to the beaches.

The commercial barge apparently is used to transport sewage trucks to remote areas so that they can be used to help pump out residential septic tanks.

An update from the local authorities says that plans are underway to remove the barge-truck combo.

“Offshore weather will be a critical factor in determining the timing of the removal of the truck and barge from the water as barges and equipment need to travel offshore to the site from Sydney Harbour,” the update said.

“We are confident the barge and truck are secure in location and there is no indication of sewage leaking from the truck on the seabed. We also know the truck is lying upside down beneath the barge.

“Two crane barges are scheduled to leave Sydney Harbour on Tuesday next week, weather permitting, and the exact method for retrieving the barge and truck from the water are being finalised,” reads the statement from Transport for NSW, a state-level government body.

“A number of options are being examined by the salvage master and may include decanting the sewage from the truck while carefully raising it from the seabed. These plans will have contingencies built into them to ensure the minimal risk of any potential contamination during the salvage operation.

“The vessel owner is responsible for covering costs associated with the salvage through insurance,” it said.

Better port access for heavy freight trucks

New regulatory notices have been issues that improve access for heavy freight trucks moving ocean shipping containers to and from Port Botany, Sydney.

According to local trade industry association RFNSW, heavy vehicles designed to carry ocean shipping boxes will be allowed to work at axle group masses consistent with concessional mass limit if fitted with vehicle safety equipment and telematics monitoring.

RFNSW Chief Executive Simon O’Hara said the notice followed RFNSW’s ongoing engagement and consultation with Transport for NSW and NSW Ports to advocate on behalf of member companies accessing the Port Botany terminals.

“The notice is welcome news for our members using the port and will drive higher levels of compliance and opportunities for greater productivity as part of their day-to-day operations, whilst adhering to stringent safety and infrastructure management standards on the roads.”

Government land transport adviser seeks assurance

Australia’s National Transport Commission has released an issues paper seeking input about “assurance schemes.” These are ways for regulated parties, trucking companies for instance, to demonstrate alternative ways to comply with the required standard.

“In an assurance framework, responsibility for risk management is shared between the regulator and regulated parties. A regulator is able to hand over risk management responsibility to a regulated party because they are given assurance (confidence) in compliance capacity through the regulated party’s participation in the scheme. This leads to efficiencies for both the regulator and the regulated parties because each one is able to take on the role best suited to them. Robust governance is critical to providing confidence and trust in an assurance scheme. Auditing and role allocation have to be appropriate for the level of assurance needed,” the NTC said.

The NTC is rethinking its assurance framework under the Heavy Vehicle National Law. It said that the current set of assurance schemes don’t link to each other or to the law very well. The schemes also are not comprehensive in their coverage of heavy vehicle operational areas.

And so the commission is seeking views and input on how it can achieve support for what is regulated based on allocated risk management roles and how it can achieve equivalent safety objectives and standards. It also would like insight on how it can create a purposeful, comprehensive and cohesive framework.

The issues paper can be downloaded from the National Transport Commission.

ATA cries out for truck drivers to be treated like people

Australia’s Trucking Association called for any changes to fatigue management in the national trucking laws to “treat drivers like humans — not machines”.

The ATA has called for more flexible fatigue management, simplified rules and recordkeeping, a reduction in the penalties for work and rest hour recordkeeping offences.

“Drivers have told us that the current system does not work. It is complex, confusing and inflexible. Truck drivers are human, not machines, and their fatigue should not be treated with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” the ATA Chair Geoff Crouch said.

The ATA has issued a fatigue management submission to the National Transport Commission that would provide an extra hour for drivers using the ATA’s new version of standard hours; easier-to-use work diaries with less risk of getting fined for paperwork mistakes; an incentive for operators to fit wider sleeper cabs; and more flexibility under a performance-based framework for operators to manage fatigue as a risk.

K&S announces massive slump in profit

Australian stock market listed trucking and logistics company K&S (ASX: KSC) has revealed an 87% fall in statutory profit for the full year ended June 30.

Statutory profit after tax was A$2.3 million, a massive fall from the figure in the previous year of A$17.1 million. The year was adversely affected by increased rail network costs.

Included in the company’s result was a $9.5 million accounting gain arising from the closure of an intermodal business in December 2017. The result also included A$9.2 million of nonrecurring accounting charges relating to the company’s exit from a general freight business.

Operating revenue for the 2018-19 financial year was A$905.2 million, which was 7.2% higher than the previous financial year.

Commenting on the results, the company said that its transport business had a “mixed year.” Contract logistics grew revenues and profits. Steel volumes from customers remained “strong.” But a variety of business including chemical transport and general freight, among others, “all experienced a disappointing year.”

The group’s New Zealand business delivered a “sound result,” as did the group’s fuel trading business.

Cost-reduction strategies are being implemented across the business “in particular, operational efficiencies, supplier renegotiations and the rationalisation and replacement of specific fleet. Ongoing cost reduction initiatives had a positive impact on the result for FY19.”

Looking forward, the company has said that it will continue to focus on organic growth and it will be reviewing its industry segments, including general freight businesses in South Australia and the Northern Territory. The company also is reviewing customer accounts that “currently do not generate adequate returns.”

K&S sells Regal General Freight to Centurion Transport

K&S (ASX: KSC) has agreed to sell its Western Australia-based Regal General Freight business to Centurion Transport.

K&S said it decided to dispose of Regal General to improve shareholder returns and to provide ongoing certainties to Regal General Freight employees and customers.

“The transaction will allow K&S Corporation to focus on its core competencies, including its Regal Heavy Haulage business, which will continue to be operated and invested in by K&S Corporation. K&S Corporation will redeploy (or sell assets that are not currently generating an adequate rate of return in the Regal General Freight business and the transaction will also release working capital of approximately A$7 million,” the company said in a statement.

K&S said Regal will transfer rights and entitlements under customer contracts to Centurion. The latter company also will make offers of employment to employees.

Centurion confirmed that it will service Regal’s existing contracts and will offer employment to Regal’s frontline staff. It added that it will use its transport fleet and infrastructure to service contracts.

Commenting on the deal, Centurion CEO Justin Cardaci said that “resource clients were demanding more and more efficiencies from their service providers, including logistics companies, and the increased scale that the acquisition of the Regal business provided would enable Centurion to remain cost competitive through better asset utilisation.”

Cardaci added that the company plans to continue Regal’s regular services in northwestern Australia.

“As economic conditions in the WA resource sector improve, there is an increasing amount of project activity, and these additional resources will position us well to capitalise on this upturn,” Cardaci said.