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Down Under Trucking: fatigue, heavy vehicle law reform, A$2bn road safety funding

Pictured: Australian dollars. Photo: Shutterstock.

Picture caption: billions of Australian dollars have been committed to Australian road safety along with hundreds of millions more for upgrading roads; Photo: Shutterstock.

Down Under Trucking: a round-up of news, information and the latest developments from the Australian trucking industry. Top news this week is the announcement of a A$2 billion (US$1.4 billion) road safety funding package by the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Funding was a big theme this week, as was driver safety, road safety and fatigue.

A$2.2 billion (US$1.56 billion) in road safety funding announced

Australia’s Federal Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has announced a A$2.2 billion road safety funding package.

“When you get in your car to drive home you don’t usually think about it being dangerous. The truth is fatal road accidents are far too common. More than a thousand Australians died on our roads last year. That’s devastating,” he said.

The funding includes $1.1 billion of money for local governments to invest in road safety infrastructure in regional Australia. An extra $550 million will be provided for the “Black Spot Program”, which targets known high-risk locations. There’s a further $571.1 million to improve the safety and efficiency of heavy vehicle operations through the Bridges Renewal Program, Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program and Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiatives (HVSI).

A new “Office of Road Safety” will also be established.

According to the Federal Department of Infrastructure, the annual economic cost of road crashes in Australia is “enormous” at A$27 billion a year. Since record keeping commenced in 1925, there have been over 190,000 deaths on Australia’s roads. It adds that in 2017, there were 1,226 people who died on Australia’s roads. Every year, 36,000 people are admitted to hospital. “Often these are lifechanging injuries, such as paralysis, brain injuries, amputations or loss of sight,” the department says.

Regulator eyes driver fatigue

Driver fatigue ought to be a major focus of the current review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law Reform, the head of the heavy vehicle regulator, Sal Petroccitto, told delegates to a state-based transport conference organized by the Victorian Transport Association.

“In many of our day-to-day interactions with operators, whether we’re at the roadside or at an industry conference like today’s event hosted by the VTA, we hear that the reform of fatigue laws should be a priority. In particular, operators are looking for more flexibility, rather than more driving hours. This push was started by the diverse cross section of operators and industry who attended our Fatigue Safety Forum in October last year, urging the NHVR to push forward with work and rest hour reforms,” Mr Petroccitto told delegates. Visit the NHVR for more information on heavy vehicle driver fatigue.

Industry action on driver fatigue

Australia’s National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has released the outcomes of a series of consultations with local transport operators about heavy vehicle driver fatigue along with the actions needed to improve safety. The National Heavy Vehicle Law was identified as being ineffective in controlling safety because it relied too much on limits on work and rest hours and not on fatigue. The law was also criticized for not adequately recognizing or encouraging fatigue risk management. Further criticisms were leveled at the law for being overly prescriptive and complex.

Industry “unanimously” supported the heavy vehicle national law and fatigue management framework being reformed. The industry also supported the adoption of 11 key principles as being desirable, including a culture of safety (as opposed to a culture of compliance; development of safe business systems; safe drivers, infrastructure and vehicles; and the encouragement of technology. The full statement can be read in full on the website of the NHVR.

A$730 million (US$517 million) to upgrade roads in the state of Northern Queensland

Australia’s Federal Government has promised to invest more than A$730m to upgrade and seal roads in Northern Queensland.

  • Townsville to Tennant Creek – $200 million

  • Yeppoon to Mount Isa – $190 million

  • Cooktown to Weipa – $190 million

  • Townsville to Roma – $100 million; and

  • Cairns to the Northern Territory border (Savannah Way) – $50 million

The Federal Government said that the upgrades will help the region to recover from floods. The upgrades will be to east-west running roads rather than, is normal, coastal region roads. It appears that the purpose of the upgrades is to ease the transport of regional freight. Compared to a dirt road, a sealed highway means less maintenance for trucks (less wear and tear on tyres and suspension), greater fuel efficiency, an ability to drive faster and in a wider range of weather conditions.

Sealing roads from Cairns, and thereby completing the Hann Highway could cut 12 hours off the drive from Mareeba to Melbourne “meaning greater business for banana, avocado and other fruit and vegetable growing businesses”, reads a statement from the Federal Government. Road sealing will also cut eight hours off a round trip from Springsure to Tambo saving A$1,400 (US$992) per trip, which will benefit those in the cattle transport industries. The new work will provide inland road alternatives to the main Bruce Highway.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals’ Leader Michael McCormack said the new works will: “increase efficiency, productivity and improve the supply chain. By making the freight system more efficient, local businesses will also have more money to invest in their operations.”

Biosecurity truck washes for Tasmania

Australia’s Federal government has announced an A$4 million (US$2.83 million) funding package to build a series of truck washes and effluent dumping facilities on the Australian island of Tasmania.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the facilities will improve biosecurity and welfare outcomes for livestock.

“By reducing the spread of disease and weeds during transport, the truck wash will also help the state’s livestock and broader agricultural industries and communities thrive and grow,” Mr McCormack said.

New CEO for the Australian National Transport Commission

Dr Gillian Miles has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of the National Transport Commission.

The NTC is a government agency tasked with improving the productivity, safety and environmental performance of Australia’s road, rail and intermodal transport systems.

Prior to her new position, she worked for Transport For Victoria, a state department, for just under four years. For just under two years of that period she was the head of the department, and for two years before that, she was the deputy secretary. Previous engagements have included the CEO role of the City of Greater Geelong, head of strategy and performance at the Transport Accident Commission and deputy secretary at the department of planning and community development in Melbourne.

Dr Mills is due to begin her new role in early April.

Sale and leaseback deal for trailer supplier MaxiTrans

MaxiTrans a Melbourne-based supplier of parts for trucks and trailers, as well as a supplier of trailers, has announced the sale and leaseback of its Auckland, New Zealand, manufacturing and service facility. The facility has been sold for approximately NZ$17.2 million (US$11.7 million). MaxiTrans will enter into a 12 year lease on settlement.

“The sale and leaseback, together with the development option, provides MaxiTrans with the potential to grow the Auckland service business and further improve the efficiencies of the manufacturing operation. In the short term, the proceeds from the sale of the Auckland facility will be used to reduce debt,” the company said in a statement.