A big industry for a big country, with growing concerns
The Australian trucking industry is central to our economy. It’s big and it’s growing. Consider the following numbers:
There are 500,000+ registered trucks in Australia.[i]
Trucks move 3.5 million tonnes of freight around Australia every day. That’s 70% of the total domestic freight task.[ii]
Australian road freight has doubled over the past two decades and is set to double again by 2030.
Because we all share the roads, the culture and practices of the growing trucking industry are increasingly impacting all Australians. Any conversation about trucking inevitably turns to safety concerns, represented by these statistics:
In the ten years to 2016, 1,898 Australian road users died in truck crashes.[iii]
Heavy trucks comprise only 2.4% of all registered vehicles in Australia, but they are involved in 16% of road crash fatalities.[iv]
One in six drivers who own their own trucks do not believe they can refuse an unsafe load.[v]
After road deaths, another national concern is the damage caused to road infrastructure by heavy vehicles. Per kilometre travelled, a nine-axle B-double can cause 20,000 times the road wear and tear caused by a family car[vi]. The vehicle registration fees are not proportionate.
An increasing number of trucks on our roads means these problems are likely to increase too. Interrogation of these problems by the industry, academics and politicians has led to new legislation, presenting a big challenge to truckers.
Most trucks are minimally regulated.
Except in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL)[vii] came into effect in 2014. It combines and harmonises highway and transportation acts, labour, safety and criminal codes and fuel tax law, across state and territory borders. Standardising vehicle law reduces compliance costs for the trucking industry.
Under the HVNL, vehicles over 42.5 tonnes are classified as Restricted Access Vehicles (RAVs). Operation is limited to certain parts of the road network and requires a notice or permit. Operators must have detailed work records (e.g. logbooks and routes) and carry on-board equipment providing accurate measurements of vehicle mass and axle loads.
Vehicles between 4.5 and 42.5 tonnes are classified as General Access Vehicles (GAVs) and do not require a permit to operate anywhere on the road network. Operators don’t need to keep work records and are not required to carry on-board load measuring equipment.
These unmonitored GAVs perform over 70% of Australia’s shipping container freight task.
Challenging changes are coming
To address this glaring safety issue, on 1 October 2018, the HVNL will be amended so that every party involved in consigning, packing, loading, moving or receiving goods is linked in a Chain of Responsibility[viii] and must have safety management systems and controls in place. Infringement penalties will increase to as much as $300,000 for individuals and $3million for corporations, with transgressors facing up to five years’ imprisonment.
Operators will have to verify that the weight of all vehicles (including GAVs) is within axle limits and legal gross mass. This is a big challenge for the industry and many trucking businesses will struggle to comply.
The usual methods for measuring truck loads are weigh-bridges, air pressure gauges and on-board electronic equipment. There are problems with each. To reach a weigh-bridge, a potentially overloaded truck must travel on the roads. If it’s discovered to be overweight, it must travel further to off-load cargo. Pressure gauges are often inaccurate. On-board equipment – original or retro-fitted – is prone to calibration faults.
Efficient, affordable and consistent weight management practices are urgently needed.
A technological solution matching industry and government priorities
Last month, the Commonwealth Government released the Report of the Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities[ix]. The Inquiry noted that governments ‘need to take a leadership role and take immediate action’ to secure greater supply chain safety and efficiency.
This week, Infrastructure Australia’s report ‘Prioritising Reform’[x] advocates for a nationally-consistent approach to issues affecting supply chain safety and efficiency. The Australian Logistics Council concurred and recognised the lack of reliable data about the performance of freight supply chains.[xi] Reliable data is essential to plan and deliver effective reforms.
When the NSW Draft Freight and Ports Plan was opened to industry feedback in 2017, Roads, Maritime and Freight Minister Melinda Pavey said ‘Technological changes have the opportunity to provide huge opportunities for improving the movement of freight. We want to play a strong role in supporting industry as it continues to innovate and take advantage of these opportunities.’[xii]
Cindicium's innovative CLAW technology allows users to quickly, easily and reliably weigh containers on the ground or on the back of a truck and share data remotely. Cindicium’s technology promotes consistent industry practice, facilitates compliance with the HVNL, and enhances logistics planning, bringing enormous safety and productivity benefits.
We’re keen to work with industry and government to deliver these benefits for truck drivers and other road users, freight businesses and all Australians who depend on them.