Summit puts practical focus around safety

The 2018 ALC & ATA Supply Chain Safety & Compliance Summit held in Melbourne over two days in September provided some encouraging insights as to where industry thinking is when it comes to the safety of heavy vehicles on our roads – and the safety of those who keep them moving.

This year’s Summit was particularly noticeable for the strong emphasis that many participants placed on achieving cultural change in their businesses and across the whole of the industry.

Many attendees observed that past attitudes which may have regrettably characterised safety as a ‘box ticking’ exercise are now giving way to a deeper appreciation of its importance.

Increasing numbers report that enhancing safety is a core business focus, and respect the fact that it will be increasingly important in maintaining viability.

Undoubtedly, this is being driven to a significant degree by the expansion of the Chain of Responsibility provisions under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, which commenced operation on 1 October.

These changes mean that executive level personnel and company directors will be required to engage with safety matters more actively than was previously the case, and ensure that their organisations have the right procedures in place to properly document road transport practices.

This is something that should be welcomed by all industry participants – and by all road users.

After all, heavy vehicle safety is not merely important to those driving trucks, but also to passenger vehicles sharing the roads with the nation’s heavy vehicle fleet.

Through its panel sessions and discussions among delegates, the Summit demonstrated a broad consensus throughout the industry of the value of a practical approach to the management of safety risks.

Such an approach is at the core of the industry-wide Master Code for heavy vehicle safety, which has been developed by ALC and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA).

There is clearly an appetite among operators and drivers alike for an approach to risk management that does more to embrace the practical, real-world knowledge built up by the industry’s experienced professionals when it comes to safety.

Adopting an approach firmly rooted in the day-to-day experience of drivers is especially important in helping to demystify safety risk management procedures for smaller operators.

Often, smaller and single vehicle operators feel time and resources pressures more acutely than others, and can therefore be more exposed to safety risks. Of course, the safety question is not merely a question of equipment.

As the Summit discussed, the whole industry needs to engage in a far more honest conversation about the mental health of its workforce.

Very often, driving is a solitary activity that necessitates a lot of time away from homes and families, which places pressure on relationships and can lead to feelings of isolation.

It will be increasingly important for industry organisations to work collaboratively on initiatives that remove the stigma around talking about mental health challenges.

Developing programs that equip the industry’s workforce with tools needed to deal with mental health issues effectively must be a top priority.

Similarly, the Summit also heard about the opportunities technology offers to deliver safety improvements, and to assist drivers as they go about their day-to-day tasks.

The Summit’s international keynote address was delivered by Robert Voltmann, President and CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association, North America’s premier organisation for third-party logistics providers.

His address provided attendees with an overview of how the industry in the United States has responded to the introduction of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), which became mandatory there in December 2017. 

It was interesting to note his observation that ELDs are supported by large sections of the US industry not only for safety reasons, but also to ensure a level playing field.

By more accurately monitoring and reporting driver hours, it is easier to prevent people bending the rules in order to gain a competitive advantage.

The Summit also discussed other technology-driven solutions to safety, including the greater uptake of telematics, in-vehicle cameras and the development of consistent data standards.

These can all promote enhanced safety right through the supply chain, assist with business management and promote better infrastructure planning investment.

The Summit produced two days of vigorous and honest discussions by attendees about the major safety challenges facing those who operate and work with heavy vehicles throughout our supply chains.

Its outcomes clearly articulated a number of key areas on which to focus over the year ahead, as the CoR changes come into effect and the Master Code takes its place as a premier safety resource for the heavy vehicle sector.

As an industry leader, ALC will continue doing its part to work cooperatively with industry participants, governments, regulators and the wider community to create a safer environment for all road users.

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