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Prime Mover Magazine

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Michael Kilgariff

Putting technology to work

February 2018

With so much discussion in industry about the impact of autonomous vehicles, it’s important not to overlook the potential technology has to allow heavy vehicles to operate more efficiently and safely, whilst also having access to better road infrastructure.
Yet as 2018 gets under way in earnest, it is important to recognise that the year ahead offers significant opportunities in each of these areas.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) is currently undertaking a review of regulatory telematics. The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has a consistent record of advocating for the mandatory use of telematics to enhance heavy vehicle safety.

It is therefore pleasing that after much delay, there has finally been some high-level movement to examine matters including industry adoption rates, barriers to adoption and the governance and legislative arrangements surrounding the use of telematics in heavy vehicles.

Consideration of these areas is a start – but it is only a start.
In the ALC’s view, the scope of the review should be much wider, and permit active consideration of the broader benefits of telematics, both in terms of enhancing road safety and boosting national productivity.

Conversations about making more effective use of telematics have been ongoing for many years. During that time, the technology available to industry has become both more reliable and more accessible, as the price of telematics equipment falls.

Industry has consistently told the NTC and other government bodies that mandatory use of telematics is essential to driving efficiency and safety improvements in the heavy vehicle sector.

This point was reinforced throughout much of 2017, as the ALC’s engagement with industry participants regarding the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy confirmed industry is continuing to embrace innovative technological solutions.

One announcement made by the Federal Government just prior to Christmas may help to increase the pace of change.

On 15 December, the Minister for Urban Infrastructure, the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, confirmed that the Federal Government is moving ahead with a voluntary National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot, which will trial a way to replace the current pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) system, which relies on registration fees and the fuel-based road user charge.

With technology now making it easier than ever before to understand where and when heavy vehicles travel, and increasing fuel efficiency delivering diminishing returns to governments from fuel taxes, it is imperative to develop a road pricing model that will better direct investment in road infrastructure to where it is most needed.

The data produced through the trial will be useful in helping the Government make decisions to enhance the efficiency of the road freight network, by demonstrating the need for additional investment in road infrastructure in particular locations, or helping to make the case for a relaxation of operating restrictions on a particular route.

The ALC considers that the economic imperatives behind moving towards this data-driven approach are more than matched by the safety imperatives.
With technology becoming more affordable, and devices such as iPhones capable of running software that will capture much of the data needed, the barriers to mandating the use of telematics in all heavy vehicles are growing smaller by the week.

In its submission to the Federal Government regarding the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, the ALC argued the Strategy should establish a policy framework that would require road transport operators to electronically collect some form of safety information, particularly in relation to speed and times of operation.

Accurate data concerning these two matters is essential in protecting driver safety and planning road freight infrastructure.

These issues will be discussed as part of ALC Forum 2018, which will be held at Sydney’s Royal Randwick, 6–8 March.

As the Federal Government finalises the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, the conversations on these and other industry priorities at the Forum will be critical in ensuring the Strategy that emerges aligns with the industry’s needs.

Many road transport operators are already leading the way when it comes to embracing telematics, because they understand the capacity technology has to enhance efficiency and safety in their own businesses. Now is the time for regulators and statutory bodies to do likewise.

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