Mandatory telematics - The New Year Resolution industry needs
As 2018 draws to a close, many of us are looking forward to a break over the Christmas season, and the opportunity to spend time with friends and family.
However, the occasion will be tinged with sadness for far too many within and without our industry, as they face spending their first Christmas without the presence of a loved one lost to a road accident.
The question that industry and governments need to ask themselves is whether we are doing everything possible to enhance heavy vehicle safety, and prevent that pain being experienced by new families each year.
In particular, we need to consider whether we are making the most of life-saving technologies that we know can make a real difference – and whether reasons offered to prevent or delay their mandatory introduction - still have validity.
Driving a heavy vehicle is a challenging occupation that demands specialist technical skills, a constant awareness of a changing road environment and potential hazards, and the ability to keep accurate records to comply with reporting requirements.
The difficulty of the role can often be compounded by mental health challenges that result from long absences from home, and the comparatively solitary nature of the work.
There are numerous ways we can address some of these pressures, but a good first step would be to use technology to our advantage by using telematics to capture and report data regarding heavy vehicle movements – particularly when it comes to speed and driver fatigue.
In 2010, ALC and leading transport companies including Toll and Linfox wrote to the National Transport Commission and said it should be mandatory for companies to monitor fatigue and speed using telematics technology.
Since that time, the case for such a step has only grown more compelling, as the price of the technology has fallen and people become more used to the idea of data about movement being captured day-to-day (think of daily step trackers on iPhones).
Indeed, industry itself is not waiting for governments to act on this matter.
The 2017 Telematics Benchmark Report undertaken by Teletrac Navman found that 88 per cent of transport business are using, or are planning to use, telematics in their operations.
These companies saw speed prevention (58 per cent) and monitoring hours to prevent driver fatigue/exhaustion (39 per cent) as the top two safety benefits that can be realised by using telematics.
There is no doubt that telematics offer business benefits beyond the realm of safety, including reduced fuel costs, higher levels of productivity and the capacity to offer customers greater visibility and enhanced tracking of their consignments.
So, while change is occurring, in ALC’s view it is occurring at an unacceptably slow pace.
What has been absent has been the political will required for the Commonwealth and state/territory governments to grasp the nettle and finally mandate the use of telematics in all heavy vehicles on Australian roads.
2019 offers a unique opportunity to change that situation, as the National Transport Commission undertakes a review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
This review offers the chance to finally ensure a law designed to ensure Australia’s heavy vehicle fleet operates to the very highest safety standards and delivers on its intentions, by amending the law to mandate the use of telemetry in heavy vehicles.
It is true that support for mandatory telematics in Australia’s heavy vehicle sector is not unanimous.
However, the same can be said for virtually every other vital road safety measure that has previously been mandated by governments.
No one today would seriously question the value of laws that mandated the installation and use of seat belts in vehicles – yet at the time of their introduction, there was opposition to such laws.
The lawmakers of that era did not cite the existence of such objections as a reason to delay change, and instead overcome objections with the weight of evidence supporting reform.
It is an example their contemporaries should look to follow.
The objections voiced by those opposing mandatory telematics generally focus on the affordability of equipment, particularly for smaller operators, and the privacy of data collected through telemetry.
These are issues that can easily be addressed by the industry and government working together to practically resolve concerns in these areas.
However, the mere existence of objections is not a valid reason to continue delaying the mandatory use of life-saving telematics equipment in the nation’s heavy vehicle fleet.
The discussion has gone on for long enough; it is time for decisive action.