Prime Mover Magazine

Peter Hart's profile shot

Peter Hart

Wisdom of the old freights

April 2020


I am getting old! 100 articles old. My first article was in April 2011. I’ve learned a few things along the way, and I have the urge to share some of what I have learned with you. Of course, many of you know a lot more than I do. Keeping that in mind, I decided to ask some friends, who are ARTSA Life Members, to give me their responses to two questions:
1 Tell me about a significant experience, opinion or wisdom you want the younger generation to understand; and
2 Tell me one or more things that should change in the road transport freight sector for its long-term sustainability, safety and community benefit.
Here is my precis of their responses:


Don’t compromise your principles even when its politically expedient to do so. In time, integrity wins through.

Don’t only focus on one specialist area or subject. Aim to be knowledgeable and/or proficient in many things. It will help your career.

Putting your hand up for the challenging job will help you achieve career success.

Never burn your bridges. The Australian road-transport industry is relatively small. You can never know what opportunities might arise. You are likely to reconnect with a previous employer through a supplier or customer relationship.

Humans tend to over-estimate the pace of change in the short-term (one to two years) and grossly underestimate the pace of change over longer timespans (ten years or more). Keep continuously learning or else you will know less in the next ten years than you know now!

Always fill the diesel fuel tank at the end of the day. This minimises the volume of the air space and reduces the amount of water condensation in the fuel. Thinking about consequences beforehand avoids later problems.

Give the driver full respect. The driver knows a lot about the ride, road handling and efficiency of his/her truck. When you are problem solving, ask the driver first! Experience matters.

Always put yourself in the customer’s shoes. The other guy’s point of view should be valuable to you, so think about it and find it out. Different people know different things. It is a great skill to be able to learn from others.

Experience counts. A driver who can start a 200 tonne roadtrain without spinning the wheels has a skill that should be respected. A young engineer who can apply the start-ability formula probably wouldn’t get it started!

Learn from others. Attaining maturity should always involve recognising the lived experience of others and learning from them.

A lot has been achieved. It seems just yesterday we made the first 23m B-double. We put crude ABS brakes on it, used non-asbestos brake linings and put it onto airbags. Now we have world-class 26m B-doubles, sophisticated EBS braking which has proven its reliability and multi-volt LED lighting which has revolutionised visibility of vehicles.

People achieve more together if they know and trust each other. Regardless of status, education, responsibility or personality, strive to achieve “common ground”. This leads to long-term collaboration. Seek to understand others; how they tick, what excites them, what will make them successful and what their personal interests are. This is crucial to building collaboration.

There are two ways to play a par-3 golf hole. 1 Attack the hole. 2 Aim for consistent and measured performance. The second approach is more likely to be satisfying and ultimately successful. Golf is a bit like life. Aim for consistency and reliability.

Generally, if you enjoy what you do you will be good at it. If you are good at it you will enjoy doing it!

Safety matters. “I saw a hoist fail on a tipping semi-trailer. It dropped a loaded container onto the skel and completely destroyed it and most of the prime-mover.” Now we have anti-burst valves. Tippers older than five years probably do not have hydraulic burst protection. Beware.

Chain of responsibilities exist everywhere. We have a responsibility to consider the effects of our actions on different sectors and to behave well, even if it is not a legal obligation.
It’s a balance between understanding the past and understanding the changes that are shaping the future.

Young people have a lot to offer. They are our hope!


We can and should reduce our harmful polluting emissions. New technologies can be cleaner than older technologies. The community deserves news technologies so we can make the air cleaner and safer.

Financial incentives are needed to speed-up the introduction of new, safer, cleaner and more efficient trucks. Finding ways to get very old trucks and trailers off the roads should be an imperative. Newer heavy vehicles have fewer crashes than old trucks and they carry more tonnes to reduce kilometres. The additional community cost of an old semi combination is about $30k/year. Maybe registration charges should increase each year with vehicle age. A carrot and stick approach is needed.

Best practice is often hard to market! Cost is important but best practice is more important because it leads to safety, efficiency and avoids foul ups. Our industry should continually recognise best practice and recognise its practitioners.

Disruptive technologies are changing the freight sector – it is an emerging sector. Often poor packing and stacking practices are being adopted to lower costs and better utilise space. Labour is often poorly paid. While efficiency is important, so is the quality of the logistics service. We need best practice by the disruptors.

Our industry always needs to reform. The reform that allowed 26m long B-doubles has delivered safety and productivity benefits. It was worth fighting for. The industry should always be agitating for reform.
There should always be a safety or environmental benefit given to the community in return for improved ratings and flexibility for operators.

Electric drives are coming fast. Australia is not adopting fast enough. The widespread introduction of battery or hybrid powered electric drives on light and medium duty trucks is close. Range extender technologies that use electric motors are coming for heavy vehicles. Electric drives will produce challenges for workshops, for the accountants and for the regulators. We are not well prepared.

Heavy vehicle driver training is inadequate. It is too short and does not cover difficult situations. A broader range of experiences are needed during the training stage. Career status is needed for drivers with proven ability and safe practices.

Our industry does not share learnings from safety incidents. Serious safety incidents should be investigated, and the learnings made public in a timely way. The rail and aviator sectors have formal mechanisms to investigate incidents and share the results. Why doesn’t road transport? Legal considerations tend to dominate thinking after a serious incident. The coronial process is generally slow, and the industry has often moved on by the time the incident is publicly explained.

In-service policing of design rules seems to be lacking. Obvious items are exhaust mufflers and tailpipes (noise, backpressure and emission compliance). Excessive lighting is commonplace, and it causes glare problems. External sun visors seem to be blocking windscreen vision.

The road transport industry should work at improving its reputation. We should aspire to achieve the reputation of fire-fighters and emergency-service folk. To do this our industry needs to identify values it will uphold and suppress bad role models. There is no place for corporate spin or for self-congratulations.

Inconsistent decisions by states, territories and commonwealth governments cost the industry. While the NHVR is making progress, there is lot more to be achieved.

I am very pleased with these responses. There is a lot of humanity and concern for our community in them. I hope that you found something here that helps you in your career and life.

Dr. Peter Hart,
The 100 articles are available at

  • Keep up to date on the latest news and developments in the commercial road transport industry. Sign up to CRT News today to receive a FREE weekly E-newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

  • Click here to join the CRT network today

© Copyright 2020 Prime Creative Media. All rights reserved.

Find us on Google+