Ask the average Joe what the most dangerous jobs in Australia are and they’ll probably guess mining or police work. Nope. The real answers surprise many: agriculture, forestry and fishing is number one, and close behind on this regrettable ranking is transport. The crucial point for this article is that road transport is not in top spot, but it very much used to be.
While there are many reasons for the steady decline in the danger of heavy transport work, the dominant factor is perhaps a decade-long safety campaign that reached its high-water mark in 2013. That year, the National Heavy Vehicle Laws were passed. These laws brought the various state and territory guidelines, regulations and laws into national harmony and gave a body called the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NVHR) real legal power. As an organisation independent of both government and industry influence, it sets conditions for all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes GVM.
Higher safety on the highway
The NHVR and its flagship program, the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS), are probably the dominant factors that has led to the general downward trend in heavy vehicle road fatalities since 2007’s high of 266 deaths. Yet there is still more to be done.
Data from 2016 from Safe Work Australia showed one out of every three workplace deaths that year involved a transport worker. While the NHVAS is working, and accredited operators like Southern Cross Truck Rentals are part of the solution, not every transport provider has signed up. There’s still work to be done.
Trucks get Australia moving
Today, road transport is literally what moves our economy. Our country simply has no choice but to rely on heavy trucks. The railways and ports, given the current state of our infrastructure and low population densities, can’t take up the slack.
Yet, just because Australia has no alternative to heavy road transport does not mean we had to accept the more than 2500 road users and truck drivers who died in truck-related crashes between 2004 and 2014. Hence the NVHAS.
Accreditation under the scheme is a process to formally recognise those transport operators that have excellent safety, maintenance, HR and management systems in place. Qualifying is not easy and is a mark that the operator actually lives and breathes best practice. The NHVR conducts rigorous ongoing monitoring and regular spot checks of the companies that have successfully achieved one or more of the four modules.
These modules are:
1- Mass management – which controls how heavy a vehicle can be for certain combinations. Because most truck providers get higher short-term profits for hauling larger loads, there is a temptation to take unsafe volumes of cargo. However, this overloading greatly increases operating risks and affects vehicle operating lifespan. Under the mass management module, transport providers must adopt specific weights and procedures for loading their vehicles.
2- Maintenance management – which looks at how well vehicles are serviced and comply with regulations. As well as benefits to business management and efficiency, maintenance management assures that vehicles are in their best and safest operating condition. Under this module, emissions and fuel consumption must be tracked, along with faults, service schedules and when spare parts have been required. Southern Cross Truck Rentals is a NHCAS Approved Operator in this module.
3- Basic Fatigue Management – which sets rules around how much a driver can work in a day. Unlike some industries, truck drivers have strict maximums for their hours worked per day. It is highly illegal to schedule them for more than this or, if they are owner-driver, for them to voluntarily exceed this total. Tired drivers are dangerous drivers. While Basic Fatigue Management is mainly a measure to improve road safety, it also boosts HR and business management practices.
4- Advanced Fatigue Management – which gives drivers greater powers to manage their own fatigue. As opposed to Basic Fatigue Management, this option is usually more applicable for long-haul drivers. Recognising that many truckies work alone in remote areas with no rest facilities (sometimes, not even with anywhere to pull over), Advanced Fatigue Management is more flexible than Basic Fatigue Management but has higher standards for the individual drivers to meet. These cover scheduling, rostering, operating limits, work readiness, driver health, company management, workplace conditions, fatigue education, general responsibility, record keeping and internal reviews.
Choose the approved operators
At Southern Cross Truck Rentals, we’re proud to be an NVHAS-approved operator. We fully support its goals to make Australian roads safer and improve the general quality of Australia’s truck fleet and trucking businesses.
It’s often said that ‘without trucks, Australia stops’ – and it’s true. But, just because we, as a whole society, have to accept trucks doesn’t mean we have to accept that they can’t be managed better.
So, when you work with an operator who’s qualified under NHVAS, you know they’re among the country’s most professional transport businesses.