Opinion: certification and staying safe in transport

By: Kim Hassall

How do road transport management certification schemes stack up safety wise?

Opinion: certification and staying safe in transport
Operators have various certification schemes to choose from


A very common question that gets asked is: what road transport certifications schemes produce the best safety results? This is a relevant question as the development of certain road certifications schemes often had specific safety intensions behind their initial development.

So, how do the certifications undertaken by the Australian road freight industry compare?

This analysis does not give a total answer to this question but does give an insight for at least the high performing end of the Australian road transport sector, namely the high productivity vehicle fleets.


A major focus towards road transport certifications happened in the 1990s following two horrendous bus and truck collisions in 1988 and 1989. The accreditation developmental wheels started turning when the then Road Transport Forum created the first step towards the Trucksafe scheme with the 1995 Team 200 initiative. This scheme became Team 2000 in 1995 and in 1997 Trucksafe, the ATA’s proprietary accreditation scheme, was launched (see Table 1).

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The NHVA Scheme

This certification scheme’s modules span mass, maintenance and fatigue. This scheme is viewed as the alternative compliance scheme and was first established in 1995 as the alternative pathway as the National Road Transport Commission (NRTC) had rejected the ‘operator licensing’ alternative was explored. This was the same year that the Draft ISO 9001 Road Transport Standard was developed, and the ATA’s Team 200 was expanded to the Team 2000 trials. It should be noted that the then NRTC rejected the idea of putting the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) modules under an ISO National Standard, and as such it can be argued that no current road transport certification scheme is actually a ’public domain’ national standard as NHVAS is a proprietary government scheme.

ISO 9001

The ISO 9001 Draft Road Freight Industry Standard (QR/002-0050, 1995) draft standard saw the light of day in 1995 and was effectively shelved as regulatory attention only embraced the government-owned NHVAS certification. There were many good, and basic, quality assurance features in the scheme that could have been adopted by both the government and the various industry schemes that existed in 1995 and thereafter. There was a belief by the then NRTC that the government scheme was a national standard, however, being a proprietary scheme. This assumption is not, and was never true. The scheme is however, a "national governmental proprietary certification scheme".

Certification schemes are being examined as part of the HVNL review

In Australia, Standards Australia is the gatekeeper for ISO standards and is the peak, non-government, not for profit, standards organisation.


Who owns the respective certifications and who is responsible for the policy changes to a certification scheme may be two different organisations. For example, the Performance Based Standards (PBS) framework, although it is not a certification, is an example where the operational delivery (NHVR), but the policy ownership and reviews (National Transport Commission (NTC)), sits with different agencies.

This not true however for ISO Standards or Trucksafe, whose operational ownership and policy development are owned by just one organisation, namely Standards Australia for ISO and the ATA for Trucksafe. With NHVAS, operational ownership is in the hands of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator but, as with PBS policy, NHVAS policy should lie with the NTC, however, no NHVAS policy changes have been implemented by the NTC since the handover of the NHVAS Certification to the NHVR in 2013. That is six years without new policy initiatives happening (see Table 2).

table 2.JPG


For this article, ISO/QA is used as an abbreviation for the group of ISO certifications (see Table 3) spanning the areas of management, operational health and safety, environmental and food handling operations respectively. In most cases fleets with these ISO certification(s) may not have any specific transport modules in their management system mix, however, all ISO certifications do reflect a serious internal management focus and are usually accompanied by a more intensive audit regime.

table 3.JPG


Historical data from a previous large national PBS operator report was available to examine the behaviour of not only fleet safety and productivity, by vehicle configuration, but safety behaviour by the certifications that PBS operator fleets actually hold. This relationship between safety and certifications held was not in the terms of reference for that original PBS operator report. However, from a safety performance perspective, focusing on the certifications held by PBS operators, this analysis should prove interesting as an initial comparative benchmark between the respective certifications.

This analysis examines only the safety performance of some 600+ PBS vehicles. There is no comparative performance as to the evaluated accident rates versus those for the conventional, non-PBS, vehicle fleet. Also, the accident classes examined was for a combined group of "serious and major" accidents, whereas previous analysis has often only examined "major" accident impact collisions.

There was only one safety metric used for this comparison and that was the accident rate per 100 million kilometres of travel. The overall vehicle kilometres travelled in the survey was 273 million km.

The major observations from the analysis were:

•  37 per cent of PBS vehicles surveyed were not in any road certification scheme

•  PBS vehicles with "only NHVAS certification" performed slightly worse than those with no certification, 9.28 vs 8.81 hits per 100 million km

•  PBS operators in both NHVAS and Trucksafe performed marginally better than operators with no certification, 8.27 vs 8.81 hits per 100 million km

•  Unfortunately, no vehicles in the survey were "only" in Trucksafe. All Trucksafe operators surveyed held either NHVAS or QA certifications, or both

•  Fleets that held an QA(ISO)-only certification performed twice as well as those holding no certification, or even NHVAS certification

•  Those fleets holding the "triple crown" of NHVAS/Trucksafe/QA(ISO) performed almost three times as well as fleets holding just NHVAS certification

•  Fleets that held a QA(ISO) certification jointly with NHVAS, or jointly with Trucksafe, saw no serious or major accident incidents in the survey. However, the NHVAS/QA(ISO) group performed only 2.86 million km and the Trucksafe/QA(ISO) group only performed some 6 million km. So, these two results may not be statistically valid, although observably very positive.

•  In all cases where a PBS vehicle was covered by any form of QA(ISO) certification, either as a standalone certification, or in combination with another certification, the safety results are very, very significantly positive.

It is possible that even these initial results might generate further discussion and even interest in future analysis looking at the safety performance of the conventional heavy truck fleets and their certifications held.

table 4.JPG

Dr Kim Hassall is chair of CILT-Australia and a director of the Industrial Logistics Institute. It is intended that a series of Logistics Pricing Short Courses will be run through CILTA over the next 12 months.


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