Engines in Australian trucks may have been modified to allow them to break speed limits. Australian police have been raiding premises across the country. In other Down Under News: APE eats up AHG; new boss for Orcoda; mobile phone driving surveillance laws; broken bridges; accident black spots; corporate debt.
Trucking regulator and police investigate “very serious” allegations
Australia’s National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and the South Australia Police force have begun investigating allegations that truck engines throughout Australia have been “remapped” which could allow speed and emissions controls to be bypassed.
Modern cars and trucks have onboard computers that operate the vehicle’s engine according to a given set of instructions known as a “map”. Re-mapping involves re-writing the maps on the computers. If carried out en-mass it could lead to mass-law breaking if the vehicle engines are re-mapped so as to bypass emissions and speed controls.
Investigations began after police intercepted heavy vehicles and found that the engines had been remapped. Earlier this week, on Monday, October 25, police carried out raids on a business premises and a private dwelling in the state of Victoria. However, police action is not limited to Victoria. Police in the states of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland are also investigating. Meanwhile, investigators from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator in Brisbane and Adelaide are on the case, as are officers from VicRoads (an agency of the Department of Transport in Victoria).
“This level of cooperation speaks to the complexity and seriousness of these allegations,” said NHVR Director of Investigations, Steve Underwood.
Penalties for criminally breaching the National Heavy Vehicle Law can be severe, depending on the circumstances and type of offense. Jail time of up to five years may be imposed on an individual person and fines of up to A$3 million (US$2.05 million) can be imposed on a company.
Automotive takeover concludes: Eagers eats up AHG
It was a long and slow process but, in the week just gone, it finally came to an end. AP Eagers (ASX: APE) confirmed that it had completed the acquisition of all the outstanding shares in Automotive Holdings Group. AHG’s days as an independent automotive retailer are now officially over.
New boss for Orcoda
Logistics optimization consultant, software provider and logistics analyst, Orcoda (ASX: ODA) has found itself a new boss. The company has appointed Geoffrey Jamieson as the managing director for the next three years. Jamieson will also be acting CFO until a new CFO is appointed. It’s a little bit of a role-swap for Jamieson as he was previously the CFO of the company and the acting managing director.
Orcoda will pay Jamieson A$325,000 (US$221,941) plus goods and sales tax (a further 10% of the salary payable to the Federal Government). He will also receive an incentive payment of five per cent of total Earnings Before Interest Taxation Depreciation and Amortization, plus GST, when EBITDA is greater than A$3.5 million in any 12 month period.
Following news of Jamieson’s appointment, Orcoda announced that it has signed a deal for a software-as-a-service installation and network modeling with Auscol, a division of Graincorp. It is only a small order though, under A$10,000. However, the company welcomes the deal as “another step for growing its transport logistics division”. Orcoda also announced the renewal of the Baycorp software-as-a-service contract for another 12 months. Baycorp provides bailiff services for the southern part of Western Australia.
Get your hands off it while you’re driving!
An inquiry into the Road Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019 has gotten underway in the Parliament of New South Wales. The Bill, if it becomes law, will create a presumption that an object held by or resting on a driver that is pictured in a photograph by an “approved camera” is a mobile phone.
The significance is that there are several mobile phone and driving related offenses. So a driver who is being prosecuted will have to satisfy the court that any object he or she is holding while driving was not, in fact, a mobile phone. This effectively reverses the long-standing principle that a prosecutor must prove that an accused was guilty; rather the accused must prove that he or she was innocent.
The period for submissions from the public was rather brief with only nine days allowed.
Local media reports, which FreightWaves has not been able to verify, suggest that a local trucking organization may have supported the bill.
Broken bridge at Bunnerungee
Structural engineers are examining the Bunnerungee Bridge in remote New South Wales after a routine inspection found a problem. A bridge out of action in the Outback is not to be taken lightly – motorists of all descriptions will have to take a 598 mile, nine-hour long, detour.
Unfortunately, when infrastructure goes bad in the Outback alternative options are few and might be unsuitable. Two other significantly shorter routes were considered “however, due to the lack of mobile phone coverage, narrow widths and unsealed road conditions, motorists are advised to take the detour along the State roads,” an official statement reads.
There’s a bit of reading-between-the-lines here that will be obvious to any Australian. In remote Australia there’s often no people, villages, towns or any way to get help for miles upon miles in any direction if a person gets lost or the vehicle breaks-down. Australia’s not a populous country either, so it’s not very likely that cars (i.e. help from other people) will be passing by any time soon.
This is not a trivial matter as Australia is heating up for the summer. It was a mild 93 degrees Fahrenheit today in Sydney and it will get a lot hotter. The risk is of getting lost or breaking down. The potential hazard is heat stress or exhaustion along with dehydration and death.
Many people have died in the Outback owing to errors of judgment that have left them stranded, or broken down, without water in areas without mobile phone coverage. Some people have tried to walk away from their vehicle to get help. They don’t get very far. Tragically, their bodies are often found a few miles along the road from their vehicle.
Another reason for this particular, long, detour is that it is a nominated heavy vehicle route accessible by all vehicle types. To help heavy vehicles, a bridge of the Murrumbidgee River on the Cobb Highway at South Hay has been designated as temporarily accessible to AB-triple heavy freight vehicles.
Meanwhile, engineers in the employ of the state of New South Wales will build a temporary single-lane side track to allow traffic to bypass the Bunnerungee Creek Bridge. Work will take up to a week to complete.
Australian Trucking Association calls for increased funding to tackle road accident sites
Federal government funding for frequent accident sites (“black spots”) in the Northern Territory (a state-like entity in Australia) should be given a boost, according to Australian Trucking Association CEO Ben Maguire. The ATA is an association-of-associations i.e. its members are mostly large trucking associations.
“There is a clear and pressing need to address regional and remote road black spots in the Territory. Government statistics have found that black spot funding, on average, reduces the number of crashes causing death and injury by 30 per cent,” Mr Maguire said.
The ATA added that it “strongly supports” the Federal Government’s commitment to tackling frequent road accident sites.
Rearranging the debt
Although the total amount of the debt remains the same, the structure of it has changed.
TTI paid a lump sum of A$7.5m to Asia Debt Management Hong Kong, which reduced the company’s debt to that company from A$13.2m to A$5.7m.
The refinancing was funded by a secured debtor and trade finance facility of up to A$5.55m at 7.3% from Octet Finance alongside a secured note facility of A$3.5 million at 11% from First Samuel.