Opinion: and the survey says ... more than we knew before

By: Rob McKay


Industry needs and planning functions rely on data, and that needs to be collected

Opinion: and the survey says ... more than we knew before
How Canberra is presenting the Hub

 

The industry should thank IT and software firms Teletrac Navman and Verizon Connect, along with the latter’s surveying partner, ACA Research.

Teletrac Navman for advocating strongly in our pages for the take-up of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), something Verizon Connect has invested heavily in as well, and the pairing for bringing us insight into the concerns of fleet-owners and managers.

On the survey, that is because the industry knows too little of itself. No doubt, there are keen insights in the minds of smart operators observing what customers and competitors are up to.

Some of them will keep an eye on what comes from industry bodies and a select but relatively few will be members of the same, with a view to broadening horizons and getting an idea of what might be coming their way so they can plan and prepare.

Other players are happy to stick to their knitting, keep the business simple and keep their heads down. If stuff happens, they will work through it, or fail in the attempt.

But actual knowledge, even if on select areas rather than the whole, goes a long way, beyond even the success of companies and their managers – because they speak to the future.

That future can be the one the authorities have a part in. It would be of immense surprise if enforcement and regulatory bodies failed to have their antennae twigged to deep difficulty the survey shows managers of companies of all sizes having with fleet maintenance.

Through the previous decade, the National Truck Accident Research’s Major Accident Investigation Reports have highlighted the impact of maintenance issues on the most expensive crashes that its parent firm, NTI, insures.

The authorities know that.

Not all the fleets surveyed will have been heavy trucks but that fact that keeping track of vehicle maintenance and finding time to take vehicles off the road for scheduled maintenance points to a systemic problem for two-thirds to four-fifths of companies, with larger fleets finding it harder than smaller ones. Half of those report maintenance often runs behind schedule.

That’s a red flag, right there.

And maintenance is a Chain of Responsibility (COR) issue. COR is a tardy phenomenon but a body of work is in the early stages of coming together, for transport company managers if not for customers.

We look forward to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) presenting a detailed report of the progress of COR. After all, in various forms, it has been around for many years.

Best for all if that risk is covered off.


Read about the 2020 Australian Fleet Trends Report, here


Another boon of industry research is that it allows service providers an insight into the industry’s need.

As Verizon Connect’s regional head, Greg Newham, tells us: "We don’t take the attitude of ‘if we build it, they will come’. We take the attitude of ‘we need to understand what the needs are and how we can best address them’."

The services market can’t fly blind. That way, ruin lies. But its players can gain an idea of what weaknesses customers would like strengthened and go about offering the most useful solutions.

After all, the best outcome of free enterprise is a win-win between vendor and customer – finance sector, please take note.

But it should be kept in mind that such surveys are fairly specific – they can’t cover all that the industry needs crucially to know about itself. Others have to step up to that mark.

Meanwhile, one formerly insurmountable difficulty until recently has been the knowledge shadow that falls over company managers and owners once trucks leave the yard.

That is giving way to real-time insights, if they are wanted, and proof of incidents and the facts surrounding them if they are needed.

Now, with so much data able to be collected, the ability to ‘crunch’ it into operationally useful chunks that will continue to develop is being offered to operators big and small.

This was the promise of several years ago and, for many smaller firms, it is still futuristic. But, as a July’s edition of ATN showed with Norman Carriers, the younger generation in the industry can’t wait to get their hands on it and see where they can go.

It will be a natural as using a mobile phone.

Meanwhile, ATN joins the rest of the industry representatives and welcome the federal government’s Budget pledge of $5.5 million to establish the $8.3 million National Road Safety Data Hub (NRSDH). 

Much can happen between this promise and its fruition and details of the ‘how’ and ‘what’ are being thrashed out. But, as a statement of intent, it is a good start and should be applauded.

Let’s hope we get a DH worth the name and not be lumped with something that is just RS.

 

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