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DOWN UNDER TRUCKING: trucker health; where trucks go; law reform; daylight robbery

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Truck driver health & safety study

A major study, which recently won the equivalent of a US$412,000 grant, is underway. It is focused on the physical and mental health of truck drivers.

The New South Wales Government Centre for Work Health and Safety, Monash University, the Transport Workers Union and major trucking company Linfox have joined forces in the “Driving Health” project.

Researchers will interview drivers, employers, contractors and family members. The hope is to develop effective interventions to improve the physical and mental health of truck drivers.

There are potentially big outcomes if the study is successful. Between 2004 and 2015 there were more than 120,000 accepted workers’ compensation claims lodged by truck drivers from around Australia. Around 17 percent of the burden of disability from injury and disease is caused by crashes. Musculoskeletal conditions, like back pain, account for more than 76,000 working weeks every year.

Trucking movements revealed by telematics

A year-long telematics study has revealed some fascinating insights into the nature of trucking movements across Australia. The vast majority of trucking movements occur in a diagonal band of the country, which runs to the northwest from Melbourne to Brisbane. This area is the region where the vast majority of the population lives. The study also shows that a relative few number of roads carry large volumes of truck traffic.

In 2018 there were 1,417 prime movers of performance-based-system vehicles enrolled in the study. A PBS vehicle is one that has been optimized to carry large volumes of freight. PBS vehicles traveled 116 million km (72 million miles), which is on average of 87,000 km per vehicle. There were 737,000 journeys giving an average journey length of 158 km per journey. About two thirds of PBS vehicles traveled less than 100,000km in 2018 while about eight percent traveled more than 200,000km that year.

The vast majority of heavy freight vehicle journeys took place in short (less than 100km) journeys in metropolitan and built-up areas rather than in long-distance inter-state journeys. Just under two-thirds of journeys with semi-trailers were under 100km and just over half with B-Doubles were less than 100km.

Another interesting fact was that the newer vehicles traveled further and more often than older vehicles, suggesting that truck operators are trying to use their newest, most efficient, vehicles as much as possible. The oldest vehicles drove the highest number of the shortest journeys.

Rigid vehicles with trailers had the longest journeys, about 225km on average, followed by B-Doubles (200km) then road trains. An interesting data point is that the mean average journey distance for B-Doubles (200km) is radically greater than the median average journey distance (100km). A much greater mean than median tends to imply that there are relatively small numbers of B-Doubles driving very long distances.

Suspect arrested after forcing truck driver from cab

A South Australian man was arrested last week for “numerous” criminal offenses. He had allegedly forced a truck driver from his cab and made off with the truck.

Just before 08:30am last Thursday, a male truck driver was sitting in his Isuzu tip truck. He was approached by another male, the suspect, who threatened the truck driver and forced him from the vehicle.

The suspect stole the truck and was shortly thereafter pursued by a police patrol car. The suspect was eventually arrested by police.

A 33-year old man has been charged with robbery, failure to stop, driving while disqualified and breaching his home detention order.

Truck law reform would bring $1.24 billion of benefits

Reform of Australia’s Heavy Vehicle National Law, introduced in 2011, would save the trucking industry A$1.8 billion a year by 2050, reduce vehicle operating costs by 3.7 percent and reduce the cost to Australian industry $900m million a year, according to new economic modeling.

The Australian Trucking Association says the Heavy Vehicle National Law has “failed” to achieve its economic objectives and that the productivity of the transport sector has fallen steadily since 2011.

The Heavy Vehicle Law was enacted to govern the use of vehicles over 4.5 tons gross vehicle mass. A metric ton is equivalent to 2,204.6 U.S. pounds. The purpose of the law was to replace the previous system which worked on a state-by-state basis.

However, even though the new system is meant to be a national system, there are still differences and inconsistencies in issuing permits, in decision-making and in time frames between different jurisdictions.

Trucking inspection regime finds widespread compliance

Australia’s National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has welcomed the inspection results of more than 4,400 vehicles across 104 locations in Australia.

“Of the fatigue-related vehicles there were 3,272 compliant drivers, which was 93 per cent – a similar level to the national operations conducted last year. Those drivers operating under Basic Fatigue Management recorded more than 96 per cent compliance rate while there were no breaches for drivers operating under Advanced Fatigue Management,” said NHVR Chief Operations Officer Paul Salvati.

Salvati added that a “lot of the data” was collected via an app that allowed real-time analysis.

There was an overall compliance rate of 80 percent. There were 11 severe mechanical- or mass-related offenses that resulted in the grounding of vehicles.

The top fatigue offenses were

18.3% – exceeding driving hours (historical)

17.9% – not making work diary entries

10.7% – exceeding driving hours (current)

8.7% – not carrying a work diary

6.3% – false or misleading work diary entries

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