With the movement to educate car drivers around trucks underway, another industry concern requiring attention is customers’ expectations of transport companies, especially as congestion and infrastructure projects around major metropolitan centres ramp up.That’s the view reinforced by two of Australia’s eminent transport directors.

FBT Transwest CEO Cameron Dunn, who is also Victorian Transport Association (VTA) president, and the Glen Cameron Group’s CEO, Glen Cameron, attended the launch of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) We Need Space initiative – the latter donating the truck used for the campaign.

The NHVR’s campaign involves V8 Supercars star Garth Tander and industry’s expert driver Kerri Connors educating motorists about the realities facing those in the cab.

However, at the same time, “we’re also trying to educate our customers on congestion and travel times”, Dunn says.

“As an industry, we’re not getting the turnaround that we used to be able to as far as our capital equipment with our projects go.”

Peak daytime traffic is often followed by night-time roadworks reducing speed limits or forcing road closures, affecting the urban freight task.

“Times have blown out in last-mile, urban delivery and container haulage,” Cameron adds.

“Congestion is hitting everybody. Industry mostly works in load rates so that becomes redundant.”

Both say they are having ongoing discussions with clients – the outcomes of which are mixed.

“It’s a work in progress,” Cameron says.

“It’s difficult for customers to accept rate increases – they resist change.

“You just have to keep communicating, stand up to it before it reaches a breaking point.”

Dunn adds: “We talk to them in operations meetings – communicate any disruptions that are affecting our services, road closures, where they’re happening and where we may need to re-route.

“Some say ‘we understand’, others say ‘bad luck’. It is just about trying to educate them.”

Dunn notes this kind of comment from operators is a recurring theme that confronts the VTA.

“The feedback we are getting is that operators are not getting full utilisation of their equipment. The VTA understands that.

“It will be the norm for a while, and may get worse before it gets better.

“We do, however, also need the infrastructure projects.”

SPACE NEEDED

Both Dunn and Cameron back the regulator’s current approach to publicising road safety around heavy vehicles.

“In terms of the VTA we’re very supportive of the We Need Space initiative from the NHVR. We welcome working with the NHVR and the opportunity to go forward,” Dunn says.

“Different states and different jurisdictions have tried different things over time but with the NHVR there’s the opportunity to be consistent and give a consistent message throughout all the states – and that’s what we need in this country.”

Cameron says his company – which comprises about 800 company drivers and contractors – together with other top operators abide by stringent safety requirements, and this needs to be complemented by cooperation from other road users.

“We put all of our drivers through driver training programs before they start with us and annually check them to ensure they are competent and conducting themselves the way we want them to on the road,” he says.

“We have all sorts of technology in the cab, including cameras, collecting data on the way our drivers are behaving on the road and incidents that they’re being confronted with.

“That data is critical for us.

“Infrastructure and road projects have changed road conditions, the amount of lanes – they’re getting narrower.

“We’ve got drivers out on the road all day, every day, and they get into situations probably because there’s not enough awareness from the average driver about the space needed between heavy vehicles and motor cars.

“The reality is they need a lot of space and they need a lot of time. Turning circle, braking distance, all those sorts of things are different in a heavy vehicle.”

Dunn extends this to light truck and commercial vehicle drivers.

“Some of those smaller parcel trucks, where you don’t need a heavy vehicle licence to drive, people drive them almost the same as cars – again, even they don’t have a concept of those larger trucks.

“Having said that, we need to keep our drivers aware and patient that there is going to be patient and we need to be vigilant.”

This article was originally posted on www.fullyloaded.com and written by Mark Gojszyk.