Bob Woodward has retired after a long career in the trucking industry, including long associations with the Australia Trucking Association and Ron Finemore Transport, and now Bob can begin looking back at the development of the trucking industry.
In my early stage of retirement, it is now time to sit back, review and reflect, writes Bob. There were fun times, challenges but often pure frustration. What seemingly should be pure simple logic was a recipe for brain damage. I have made many friends along the way, but also enemies. A practice I had ingrained into me was, it’s OK to kick someone’s butt when they stuff up, but don’t forget the compliments when they do a good job, I’ve never forgotten that advice.
In 2023 it should not be unreasonable to generally expect to have access to good services, education, health, roads etc. Too frequently duplication of management results in less and less dollars making it into infrastructure and services. The problem is that governments at all levels don’t actually have money, they collect it via taxes and are then tasked with managing the spend on behalf of the community.
Over time there has been multiple lists of policy projects that were going to happen for the betterment of the road transport industry. Some have delivered a little whilst others very little, including: quad axles, rest areas, and Performance Based Standards.
In 2006 a discussion paper was developed to encourage more general use of quad axle groups in semi-trailers and B-Doubles policy. The National Transport Commission recommended that quad axles be operated at 24 tonnes GML and 27 tonnes HML. ARRB conducted another technical assessment in 2014 and confirmed the NRTC recommendation.
Ten years after it started, in 2016, yet another discussion paper, a review of quad-axle groups. A further 7 years on, there are some quad axles in PBS combinations and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator believe they are innovative leaders.
Rest areas have been a concern for as long as I can remember. A new highway is planned and constructed, and only then the question is raised, where are the heavy vehicle rest areas? The first thing to happen during road maintenance, is a heavy vehicle rest area is ‘closed’ for a temporary works depot, truck drivers can make their own arrangements to manage fatigue.
Ther have been many Rest Area Strategy consultations/programs over the past 20 or so years. A National Road Safety Inquiry in 2003 resulted in many recommendations, 20 years on, truck drivers are still waiting. Recently, the New South Wales Government announced it is encouraging the freight industry to participate in another consultation to improve NSW heavy vehicle rest stops. How many consultation programs are required?
Hopefully, each of the state road agencies know what the National and State freight routes are going to look like in 20-30 years. Future forecasting suggests that the freight task will increase by 34 per cent by 2061. I am not worried about 2061, what I am very concerned about is there is no plan for the highways linking: Adelaide-Brisbane, Adelaide-Melbourne, Brisbane-Melbourne and others in next 5-10 years, let alone the next 38 years.
There should be a strategic long term focus on future high productivity freight vehicles, like the 42.5metre modular AB-triples, including appropriately located and facilitated rest areas. It’s time to stop the repetitive consulting and start the constructing!
The concept of PBS has not been fully realised. It is now just over thirty years since the concept that became PBS was initially discussed. Industry thought they were backing a winner when the States agreed to the principles of safety standards. It wasn’t clear that access would be used as the big stick to enhance or deny PBS applications.
The move to migrate PBS configurations to Notices has been slow, the notice for three axle trucks and four axle dogs has been less than a roaring success. The notice should have been able to encompass a large majority of those related PBS configurations, after the NHVR has access to all the technical detail.
The issue with policy, is that developing and adopting policy is the easy bit, turning that policy into legislation and regulation is when the hard work starts. The time lapse to implement change in Australian Design Rules and Vehicle Standards is but one example, and it has not improved with time. Change to at least one ADR has been in discussion for more than 32 years and is still not addressed. Bureaucrats that are truly prepared to embrace the challenges of actually implementing change are few and far between, too many watchers and not enough workers.
Until next time, I hope you can avoid the pot holes and locate a clean appropriately located rest area and get quality rest, it’s still a long road ahead.