Opinion: The good fight

By: Geoff Crouch


Standing up for the industry. It’s what we do.

Opinion: The good fight
ATA and NHVR are running information campaigns about the new laws, Crouch says.

 

In early September, the weekend Fairfax papers carried a story on truck safety and recent accidents. Any casual reader of the story would have been left with a very bad, and very wrong, picture of the trucking industry.

Every fatality on our roads is one too many, and has significant human, social and financial costs.

For this reason, it’s vitally important that the conversation about safety is measured, focused on improving outcomes, and doesn’t gloss over the progress that has been made. If you don’t talk about the good news you’ll risk not recognising how we can achieve even better safety outcomes.

Your trucking industry is a leading voice on how we can deliver improved safety outcomes.

The Australian Trucking Association and its members successfully lobbied for strong new truck laws to improve safety, which include a new primary safety duty for all businesses in the road freight transport chain of responsibility, including the extension of the laws to maintenance, a due diligence obligation on company executives, and a massive increase in maximum penalties.

These laws are needed to stop large industry customers from pressuring trucking businesses into operating unsafely on the road.

The laws are due to come into effect in 2018, but we do not yet have a defined starting date. If governments are serious about improving road and truck safety, then they need to set the start date for these strong new laws.

The ATA and its members are running strong information campaigns about the new laws, as is the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

With the Australian Logistics Council, we are jointly developing a master registered code of practice to help businesses comply.

But having a specific starting date is needed to focus the attention of every industry customer.

We also said that governments must publish the results of the current review into truck driver training and licensing.

As a result of pressure from the good operators and trainers in our industry, governments are reviewing the truck driver licensing and training system. The consultants undertaking the review are scheduled to report back in November.

There is a wide and inconsistent variety in truck driver training and assessment. We all know that some of it is manifestly inadequate.

While there are many excellent trainers, others train to a price and focus on how long a course will take and not on the level of competency attained.

Trucking operators are particularly concerned about the variable quality of training in chain of responsibility, load restraint, fatigue management and work health and safety.

For better safety outcomes, we need consistency in the quality of training and assessment. Trucking operators should be able to be confident that if you have the right license, you have the right skills.

Given the concerns raised about the quality of driver training and licensing, we say that governments must make the report publicso we can all see the findings.

Thankfully, the rate of fatal crashes involving large trucks like semitrailers is steadily improving.

Authoritative statistics from the University of Adelaide Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR) show that the fatal crash rate for articulated trucks declined 82 per cent between 1982 and 2016.

The truck crash rate won’t be acceptable until it is zero, but we are making progress – and the changes we are seeking will result in further progress.

Geoff Crouch is Chair of the Australian Trucking Association.

This article first appeared in the November edition of ATN

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