Down Under Trucking: Bureaucrats Ignore Trucking Experts

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The Australia Trucking Association, which counts trucking associations and large corporates among its membership, has accused government body AustRoads of ignoring freight experts in one of its studies.

AustRoads is, effectively, a trade association for Australian and New Zealand local and central government road transport departments and agencies. AustRoads launched a study in September 2018 looking at whether the width of Australian heavy freight vehicles could be safely increased so that industry can have access to new heavy vehicle technologies.

Refrigerated trucking would benefit

Australia’s refrigerated cargo transport industries would benefit too. The mercury in a thermometer can pass 122 Fahrenheit in certain parts of Australia… and stay there. Frozen and chilled cargoes need to stay cold but that’s difficult to do when the ambient temperature is so high.

So transport operators want to stuff the trucks with insulation. But rule 7(1) states that a heavy freight vehicle cannot be wider than 2.5 meters (8.2 U.S. feet). If a trailer could be marginally wider, say 8.53 feet, then engineers could stuff in another 1.3 feet of insulation.

That would effectively double the insulation in the trailer.

Bureaucrats blasted by the industry

Australian Trucking Association chairman, Geoff Crouch, blasted AustRoads earlier this week. “Last year the expert panel inquiry into national freight and supply chain priorities recommended better supply chain integration, including common standards such as the width of refrigerated truck trailers, that should align with major international partners,” Mr Crouch said.

“However, current research work underway by government research body Austroads is exploring moving to an overall permissible width of 2.55 meters, ignoring the international benchmark of 2.6 meters, especially for refrigerated truck trailers… an increase in allowable width to 2.6 meters would enable refrigerated trucks to utilize thicker insulated walls without loss of payload. In 38 degrees outside temperatures, these thicker walls would reduce heat gain by 36 per cent and deliver a fuel saving of 2,500 liters per typical refrigerated vehicle per year.”

“Austroads reference the expert panel finding on the need for international harmonization on the width of refrigerated truck trailers in their own project brief, but have then proceeded to rule it out of scope. They claimed the benefits of harmonizing for refrigerated trailers to justify the project, and then refuse to look at what is actually needed to achieve those benefits,” Crouch fumed.

“The expert panel inquiry drew on 127 submissions and meetings with over 200 individuals, 28 peak bodies and 90 businesses. Austroads and its government members should actually take note of the outcomes of this consultative process,” he argued.

AustRoads immediately responded.

CEO Nick Koukoulas said that the current research is focused on the effects of increasing heavy vehicle width to 2.55 meters (8.366142 feet). He added that the research will also make recommendations about future considerations of other dimensions “and will help guide upcoming studies.”

Thanks for the money, Tim

Tim Pallas, the government treasury minister for the Australian state of Victoria, has committed to funding the training of “at least” 800 new truck drivers over four years in a million-dollar per year training programme. The funding announcement was warmly welcomed by local industry representatives.

“The VTA [Victoria Trucking Association] congratulates the Andrews Labor Government for recognizing the value of the heavy vehicle industry through its various budget commitments,” said VTA CEO Peter Anderson.

“We especially thank the Premier and his Government for acknowledging the value of the VTA’s Driver Delivery program, with funding secured to ensure the Association can continue to provide highly trained, competent and skilled heavy vehicle drivers at a time when driver shortages are rife in the industry,” he said.

Fatigue under the microscope

Australia’s National Transport Commission has released an issues paper on effective fatigue management for the purpose of public consultation.

The Commission says the primary goal of the fatigue management provisions in Australia’s Heavy Vehicle National Law is to “prevent drivers from driving while fatigued. The key risk controls are primary duties, work and rest hours, work diaries and record keeping.”

However, the Commission says the law is “not stopping people impaired by fatigue from driving heavy vehicles. Drivers of heavy vehicles are still dying in fatigue-related crashes, and fatigue is still a factor in many major crashes involving heavy vehicles.”

Key problems identified include a focus on fatigue risk prevention controls, a prescriptive approach and a lack of flexibility.

The Commission is seeking views on how to achieve safer outcomes, effective fatigue risk management, a continuous improvement in risk controls, a harmonized (but not uniform) risk approach, simple and flexible compliance options, efficient enforcement and sanctions.

Submissions from the general public are being accepted online at until Friday, August 16.

Drugged driver testing under consideration in New Zealand

Across the ditch (the Tasman Sea) in the archipelagic nation of New Zealand, the government Ministry of Transport is looking at Enhanced Drug Impaired Driver Testing.

New Zealand is experiencing an increasing trend of road deaths. In 2013 there were 2013 deaths on Kiwi roads but, in 2017, there were 378. That’s a 49 percent increase over five years.

Drug impaired driving has been identified as a problem.

Blood samples reveal scale of drugged driving problem

Medical examiners looked at blood samples of drivers killed in crashes between January 2013 and May 2018. During that time, 845 samples from 1,000 dead drivers were examined and the vast majority (90 percent) were subjected to a full drugs screen. Nearly one-third were using alcohol, over one-quarter were using cannabis and one-tenth were using methamphetamine. Other drugs, typically medicinal and sedative drugs, were found in 15 percent of samples.

Unfortunately, it cannot be said that the presence of a particular drug in a person’s system will definitively prove that person is driving-impaired as each person will respond to drugs and dosages in different ways, the Ministry says.

Research for the NZ Transport Agency found that 25 percent of drugs issued on prescription can impair driving ability. Perhaps more alarmingly, nearly 65 percent of Kiwi drivers are unaware it is illegal to drive while impaired by medication.

Whether recreational or medicinal, drugs impair driving ability

However, large meta-studies have found that drug consumption, whether recreational or medicinal, generally increases crash risk, injury severity, fatal crash rate and the general ability to drive.

And so New Zealand is looking at deterrence, removing drug impaired drivers from the road and sanctions, among other things.

Under current New Zealand law, drug impairment testing “has challenges and limitations,” the Ministry says. It adds that police must “explicitly” identify a reason to suspect a driver is potentially impaired. However, some drivers who are actually impaired through drug use may not have observable signs of impairment. Alcohol-related breath testing is compulsory.

About 60 percent of drivers in New Zealand believe alcohol consuming drivers would likely be caught by police but only 26 percent of drug-consuming drivers would be similarly caught.

The Ministry is therefore seeking input on whether road-side drug screen is a good option for deterring drugged driving and detecting drug drivers. Also under consideration is the reasonableness of oral fluid (i.e. spit) roadside testing, delaying drivers to do the test, whether a zero-tolerance approach is appropriate or whether there should be a legal limit for some drugs.

Submissions can be made via email to

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