Staying Upright

Alan Pincott is the public face of the innovative industry program HVRAP – the Heavy Vehicle Rollover Awareness Program.
Heavy vehicle safety advocate Alan Pincott.

Alan Pincott was destined to be involved in trucking as his father and grandfather both operated logging trucks, and Alan commenced his own career as a heavy vehicle mechanic who went on to become a driver, instructor and heavy vehicle licence tester and spent 18 years with VicRoads.

“I went to a lot of rollovers, and I have been working hard to reduce rollovers since 2005, both in my role as a VicRoads heavy vehicle Regulation Officer, and as an independent consultant to industry since 2016,” he says.

“My main focus has been logging and timber products, but we have worked with many other sectors and the generic message is the same for all sectors of the industry.”

It was while working with Victorian Forestry that Alan realised the true extent of the truck rollover situation.

“We had a spate of rollovers, and in of a fleet of 220 trucks salvaging bushfire wood, we rolled 16 in six months,” recalls Pincott.

Using his mantra of “you can’t control what you don’t understand,” Alan lead detailed investigations into the incidents which resulted in the formulation of an initial prevention program which was run for 220 drivers, plus loaders, operators, and enforcement officers.

Starting with 200 anonymous crash reports, Alan, and those assisting him, were able to work out what was happening in the lead up to rollovers, as well as trends with different vehicles, loads, even the time of day a rollover occurred.

By involving people right through the transport chain, during the following six months there were remarkably no rollovers in the fleet.

“We investigated because we were trying to figure out what was going on,” Alan says. “Back then we really didn’t understand the problem. An experienced investigator can look at the marks on the road, the road characteristics, vehicle, load, and recreate the crash using mathematical equations with factors such as centre of gravity, centrifugal force and dynamic load. Speed has a squaring effect on centrifugal force (CF). If you double the speed, the CF increases by four times. We learned most guys aren’t breaking the law when they roll over, they just get it wrong on the day. If everybody understands what’s happening and why, and they all work together along the transport chain and beyond, we can have some great outcomes.”

In recognition of his work Alan was awarded VicRoads’ Highest Outstanding Achievement award in 2015.

He has delivered more than 1,000 face-to-face training sessions across Australia and the HVRAP program has already proved very successful, with significant reductions in rollovers and crashes for those who have participated.

During COVID, Alan and his team were unable to deliver the in person sessions and this highlighted the need for an online resource.

“There were cases where drivers who had not participated in the program because of COVID restrictions, rolled trucks,” he says. “This gave us all a sense of frustration.”

Leaving the restrictions effected by COVID behind, the LBRCA and Alan now makes the most of the opportunities to introduce the program to a wider industry audience.

“The great part of working with the transport industries in Australia, is that every time I deliver a program, I will learn something from the attendees that we can use in the future,” explains Alan.

“I always say, ‘I just have the privilege of running the program, the content comes from you guys. You do the job — you are the experts.’”

The initial good results encouraged Alan to look to take the program beyond the Gippsland forests and he found strong support from Bec Coleman, CEO of the Livestock and Bulk Rural Carriers Association (LBRCA) and its President, Wade Lewis, and they have partnered since 2022 to develop and deliver the HVRAP.

“The LBRCA were keen to become more involved in the program’s delivery and suggested Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI) funding through the NHVR and making the program accessible and free to all,” says HVRAP Program Director, Bec Coleman.

“An online approach was considered the most efficient way to achieve this and as engagement by all parties is the proven key to success.”

Truck on a regional straight road in Australia.
A truck approaches on a long, straight single lane highway in rural New South Wales. Image: Scott Donkin /

They involved as many people in the industry as possible in order to get the content and approach right.

In turn, it gave them a sense of ownership, therefore ensuring engagement.”

Bec adds, “LBRCA members have been very willing to share their experience, knowledge and skills.”

Bec worked with operators including Jim Reardon, Brian Smith and Kel Baxter who have participated in the production of the program’s modules which included video presentations.

There are 12 modules in the generic program plus specific modules have been developed across such transport sectors as fertiliser, grains, hay, fodder and wood chips with others such as concrete agitators under consideration.

Subjects include what happens when a truck rolls over and why, the contributing factors, the forces involved, and factors such as loading and driver behaviour.

The program, according to Bec, is not intended to replace face-to-face training.

“It will be a very good induction resource and aid to operators and trainers,” she says.

Her background in education ensures that the learning themes will suit the audience. Making the program free to all users will help to encourage industry continue to keenly assist with the development of the program into the future.

“When it comes to business, we are all competitors, when it comes to safety, we should all work as one,” says Alan. “Individually we know a lot, collectively we know much more”.

Bec was keen to go an extra step so that she might better understand the crashes in the industry.  She decided to incorporate a crash information tool.

“We are encouraging people in the LBRCA and beyond, when they have a crash or even a near miss, to use this tool to provide information,” she says.

“We don’t want to know the company or the driver, but we want to build up a good profile of what these crashes are, including where, why, and how. This road crash information has the potential to get some important data not only from LBRCA members but right across the whole industry in Australia.”

Prime movers are typically very stable, much like a car and are actually hard to tip over.

But connecting to one or more trailers significantly changes the dynamics of the combinations.

Modern technologies such as Electronic Stability Control can lead drivers to become too reliant on the truck getting them out of trouble according to Alan.

“A driver needs to understand what their centre of gravity is, if they don’t, they’ve got no hope out on the road and won’t know what speed to drive at,” he says. “If they’re not sure they should treat it as the worst load there is and drive accordingly. Just because you’re legal, doesn’t mean you can’t do it better.”

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