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Prime Mover Magazine

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Michael Kilgariff

Enough talk – time for action on telematics

March 2018

For everyone working in Australia’s freight logistics industry, statistics around heavy vehicle safety can make for sobering reading. In the early months of 2018, there has been significant media focus on the fact that in the 12 months to September 2017, there was an increase in the number of fatal crashes in New South Wales that involved heavy vehicles.

It is equally important, however, to note that over the corresponding period, fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles decreased in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania – all of which are subject to the same Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) that applies in New South Wales.

Moreover, statistics published by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) in 2016 suggest that in 80 per cent of fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles, the driver of the heavy vehicle was not at fault.

This doesn’t mean industry should be complacent – there is far more to do – but it is important the discussion is placed in its proper context.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) strongly supports the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) obligations set out in the HVNL.

The premise of CoR laws is simple. If you consign, pack, load or receive goods as part of your business, you may be held liable for breaches of the HVNL. Companies cannot ‘contract out’ their CoR obligations, no matter what their industry or part of the supply chain.

These provisions will be further strengthened by changes due to commence this year.
Contrary to assertions by some, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) established in 2012 is operating effectively, from both an enforcement and industry liaison perspective.

The NHVR and our courts are not waiting for incidents to occur before cracking down on non-compliance.

For instance, one company was fined $982,206 last year for failing to ensure that a sub-contractor they managed complied with the load requirements of the HVNL. This fine was imposed despite these breaches not causing injury or harm to any person or property.

This is particularly important given the relatively low barriers to entry for new participants, who may have little or no formal safety training. The ALC believes the risks posed by this situation could be reduced by the introduction of national operator standards for heavy vehicles.

This would help make certain heavy vehicles are operated by competent professionals who adopt and follow proper safety management systems, and who can retain sufficient capital to invest in transport safety.

To further enhance safety outcomes in the industry, particularly among smaller operators, the ALC has partnered with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) to develop a registered industry Master Code for heavy vehicle safety, and that work is now well advanced.

It’s also worth noting that in December 2017, the US mandated the use of electronic work diaries (EWDs) by truck drivers. This will produce more accurate data for operators and regulators, while making it far less onerous for drivers to comply with safety regulations.

Australia should similarly embrace far greater use of technology to enhance
road safety.

The critical feature missing from Australia’s HVNL is a mandatory requirement for heavy vehicles to use on-board telematics to report key information. These devices would be used to capture data regarding the longitude, latitude, speed, date and time of speeding events as well as engine on/off data.

Although such equipment may previously have been prohibitively expensive to install, particularly for smaller operators, today a smartphone is able to capture most of the required data. Provided there are strong safeguards to protect the privacy of the data, the ALC strongly supports the introduction of mandatory telematics as means of improving heavy vehicle safety.

Telematics has been part of the conversation for many years, but the pace of adoption has been far too slow.

It is time for industry and governments to rectify this, and make 2018 the year that mandatory telematics stops being a talking point at meetings, and becomes the law of the land.

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