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USA TRUCK ORDER CANCELLATIONS REACH 20 YEAR HIGH
It’s more bad news for the American truck market with cancellations of heavy-duty truck orders reaching a two-decade high.
US truck makers have battled dwindling sales since late last year, but according to data from ACT research, buyers cancelled 8,610 orders for Class 8 trucks last month or 10.5 per cent of backordered units.
Fleet operators have held back on model upgrades and expansion plans as a result of lower shipping demands and falling freight prices.
According to principal at ACT Research, Jim Miel, the spike in cancelled orders is a major concern.
“More businesses and more customers out there who for one reason or another have lost faith in an increase to shopping demand. This is a high number by any benchmark,” he said.
“I don’t see anything different in terms of freight or an economic dynamic. Things were a little bit shakier for some of that intended business than the manufacturers thought back in the summertime.”
The downturn in the heavy-duty market has already impacted engine manufacturer Cummins and Miel warned there would be a concertina effect.
“The cancellations will indeed have some ramifications upstream to the supply chain,” Miel added.
Keeping Transport Operations Ready for the Future
Many midsize trucking operations are struggling with keeping transport operations ready for the future. A case in point is based in the the Wollongong/Port Kembla area, one of those which has been up against it in recent years. The decline of the steel industry and disappearance of manufacturing has had the effect of depressing the local economy.
This is the business environment in which regional carrier boss, Alan Ross, is trying to maintain a business started by his parents and which he hopes will eventually pass through to the next generation.
The business started back in 1975, at the time Alan was just 12 years old and the job of washing down the trucks was his responsibility. The freight the operation handled was typical of many of the operators in the area at the time, steel, tippers and coal. The natural ups and downs of the economy saw the emphasis move between the different applications, but work was consistent overall.
By the time Alan took over the business, following his parents divorce, the operation ran ten trucks and was growing into interstate work. The mix moved gradually over to interstate freight and local flat tops so that by 1989 the tipper fleet had gone. Coal transport had become high maintenance and was moving towards a 24 hours a day operation and was dropped.
Alan’s mother remains part of the team and is described by him as being the ‘backbone of the business’. She had always been involved in the business while holding down full time job, after 1989 she began to work full time.
At this point the fleet grew as the amount of interstate work available expanded. More trucks and trailers joined the fleet and the expansion continues. From the small local operation of those early years, there are now 57 trucks including 35 B-doubles and, in total, 120 trailers in the fleet, the vast majority of which are Freighter/Maxitrans trailers.
“We have 57 trucks now, but I was, originally, going for one for every year of my age,” said Alan. “I’m 54 now, but two years ago I decided to give that up. I wanted to get back to a situation where I could be happy, it was wearing me down. Now, I’ve gone to 57 trucks, the other way, because the market won’t let me sell trucks.
“I am not going to sell good equipment and good trailers for nothing, they will not give me enough. I’m sitting here with five spare sets of Freighter/Maxitrans tautliner trailers. They will probably get sent to the auctions in the next few months.”
The business remains diverse covering a lot of industry sectors. With over one hundred regular customers, the operation will handle goods from steel to bricks to general freight, working for the likes of Boral and Bluescope, but also smaller companies.
“We aren’t the primary contractor on many jobs now,” said Alan. “You see, a lot of the little mobs are closed, the ones I used to concentrate on. They didn’t mind paying a little bit more because of the service levels they received. A lot of them have shut down or moved overseas.”
The business employs about 80 people altogether. there are ten in the workshop, seven in administration as well as the 57 drivers. Each driver has their own truck and only they drive them. Alan reckons it is an efficient way to organise the fleet.
“We do not share trucks. I don’t believe we do it tough, because I pick up the costs in maintenance,” says Alan. “I pick it up in not paying owner drivers, I pick it up in a lower turnover of drivers. You really have to be on the ball to make it work.
“I won’t do changeovers, I refuse to do them. I think they are dangerous and encourage drivers to do the wrong thing. Everyone’s aware of the fatigue issues now, the smaller people are the ones who aren’t aware, but a lot of them are learning. I don’t find anyone a problem with a time slot change, as long as you are on the ball. We phone the driver and ask them what time suits them and it works. If you communicate and talk about it, it works.”
Are better roads too much to ask?
Truckies are happy to contribute to the cost of roads and road maintenance, but we must get better value money, Rod Hannifey argues
In his latest Owner//Driver column, road transport safety advocate Rod Hannifey says the transport industry needs to get better value out of its contribution to the state of Australian roads.
"For years the road transport industry has correctly claimed that we are overcharged for our contribution to roads and road maintenance," he says.
"We are not the only ones who use them; yes we are the biggest and carry the most weight, but whilst we do carry freight with intent to make a profit, we are a service industry to the people of Australia.
"If they did not need and buy the products we carry, we certainly would not be running up and down the road empty, just for fun!"
As a truckie himself, Rod traverses the country behind the wheel of the TruckRight Industry Vehicle and sees it as his duty to report areas of dilapidation. But ongoing issues have him angry.
"I have been ringing road authorities for years asking for bits and pieces to be repaired," Rod continues.
"If we do not report a problem, how will someone sitting in an office hundreds of kilometres away ever know of it?
"Yes, there are still some road crews who will look and report road issues, but if they are driving along at 60km/h, will they see, feel and recognise the impacts on a fully laden B-double and will they do anything about it?
"How often do we see road repairs done and they have failed by the next week and we are forced to pay for that bad work, over and over again?
"Yes, we must contribute to the cost of roads and road maintenance as road users. But we must get better value for road building and road repairs.
"The dips, bumps, culverts and bridge abutments that subside, and the potholes and the damage caused to the truck and the driver, must be recognised as a cost not only to the owner and driver, but to the Australian community, let alone often a contributing factor to crashes.
"If the roads were built to a standard and we got good value from them, instead of being built to the cheapest cost that may well then see maintenance costs over the life of the road far exceed the original price."
Ceva Logistics leases two new facilities in Vic
With new automotive contracts under its belt, Ceva is expanding its presence in the state
In a move to accommodate its growing business, supply chain management company Ceva Logistics has leased two new warehouses in the West Park Industrial Estate in Truganina, Victoria.
With the new three-year lease, Ceva will have two warehouses over 10,000sqm each in addition to loading docks, office spaces and car parks.
One of the two West Park facilities will be used to manage the newly-acquired Toyota contract.
Facility owner Frasers Property's southern region C&I Anthony Maugeri says Truganina is one of the fastest growing industrial precincts in the country and continues to attract major Australian companies.
It is currently home to other transport and logistics firms including Austrans, Toll Logistics, MaxiParts, Australia Post, Chep, Fastline Logistics, among others.
"Victoria’s West is expanding rapidly and this park is ideally located to capitalise on this growth. The Port of Melbourne, Melbourne Airport and the Western Ring Road can all be accessed from this centrally located industrial estate," Maugeri says.
"In addition to the park’s great location, Frasers Property offers a total customer service solution providing end-to-end service for all development disciplines."
Qld to host Australia’s 'largest' automated vehicle trial
Bailey says success of such trails depends upon adapting existing traffic systems with new technologies
Queensland has announced plans to host the biggest automated vehicle pilot program that will see around 500 fleet and public vehicles test the concept of connected and automated driving (C-ITS) technology in Ipswich.
The four-year Cooperative and Automated Vehicle Initiative (CAVI) project will be funded by the state government, and the Motor Accident Insurance Commission and supported by Bosch Australia, Ipswich City Council and Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q).
The state government plans to engage with transport industry members and other relevant stakeholders to adapt the existing systems, infrastructure and data to innovative transport technologies.
The on-road testing phase of the project is expected to kick off in 2019.
The subjects of platooning, driverless vehicles and automated vehicle trials have gained momentum in Australia, with other states including Western Australia and South Australia planning similar trials in the near future.
Earlier this month, the National Transport Commission (NTC) released automated vehicle regulation reform roadmap, which recommends a phased reform program to facilitate such trials.
Queensland roads and road safety minister Mark Bailey says the state transport department is working with Bosch to secure its "highly-automated driving vehicle", which is co-sponsored by the Victorian government, for the trial.
"The Queensland Government’s CAVI project is another example where industry and government will work together to trial and validate the benefits these new technologies will bring to the market," Bosch Australia regional president chassis systems control Mark Jackman says.
"Project’s such as these are not just vital for the advancement of road safety and public awareness but also for the further development of technical expertise and capability of Bosch Australia engineers."
The vehicles involved in the trial will be retrofitted with C-ITS devices that will provide safety warnings to the driver about current road conditions that may not visible to them at that point on the road.
"These C-ITS devices work by providing safety warnings to the driver about a range of conditions – for example, a pedestrian crossing at a signalised intersection, a red light runner or a queue ahead that isn’t visible to a driver," Bailey says.
"Our interest in testing these vehicles is to help understand the implications for our infrastructure and drivers, and the improvements to automated vehicle performance when the vehicle can talk to other vehicles and infrastructure.
"These rapidly developing technologies have the potential to significantly reduce crashes and crash-related gridlock, as well as reduce vehicle emissions and fuel use over coming decades.
"While industry is leading the development of advanced vehicle technologies, the success of these will rely upon connecting to our existing traffic systems."
Member for Ipswich Jennifer Howard says the test-bed will be available for use by industry, academics and governments to continue to test new technologies.
Member for Ipswich West Jim Madden says the transport department’s move to the planning phase of the pilot "will have a strong focus on safety".
Volvo joins forces with Wagga Trucks
New South Wales truck dealership, Wagga Trucks, has been appointed as a full-service regional dealership for Volvo Group Australia.
According to Volvo, in additional to selling new and used Volvo, UD, and Mack Trucks, Wagga Trucks will provide comprehensive aftersales service and support with their purpose-built heavy-vehicle workshop.
“Wagga Trucks is extremely excited to partner with Volvo Group Australia as its sales and service agent in the Wagga Wagga region,” said Bryce Shaw, Director at Wagga Trucks. “Volvo Group Australia has built a reputation for its high standards in trucks and customer service, and that is something we’re proud to uphold in Wagga Wagga.”
Peter Voorhoeve, President of Volvo Group Australia, added. “It’s no secret that my mantra is ‘service, service, service’, and I’m a firm believer that customer service is the key to market leadership,” he said.
“Wagga Wagga is an important regional hub, and for Volvo Group Australia to maintain our market leadership, it’s absolutely critical we partner with dealers who share our values and commitment to customer service, like Wagga Trucks.”
Wagga Trucks will commence service, parts and sales operations for Volvo Group Australia on the December 1st 2016.
The latest announcement ends Volvo’s successful 13-year association with Wagga Motors, which announced its resignation.
According to Richard Braid, Dealer Principal at Wagga Motors, send it was a strategic decision to re-align the Wagga Motors group.
“On behalf of Wagga Motors, I’d like to thank Volvo Group Australia for being a fantastic business partner over the past 13 years, and I wish them the greatest success in the future,” he said. “We are fully committed to ensuring the transition to Wagga Trucks is seamless, and the Volvo, UD, and Mack Trucks customers continue to receive the high standard of service that Volvo Group Australia is known for.”
Wagga Motors was also awarded the 2015 Dealer of the Year by Volvo Group Australia.
White Hill Truck Drivers’ Memorial Convoy
More than 50 trucks took part in this year’s White Hill Truck Drivers’ Memorial Convoy in honour of lost friends and loved ones
Back in the good old days, Murray Bridge, 80 kilometres east of Adelaide, was generally the first stopping point for all those under-powered trucks that slogged their way up and over the Adelaide Hills.
On any evening, the road houses over the bridge would be full of truckies who had stopped for tea.
And so it was fitting that on November 23, 2014, the White Hill Truck Drivers’ Memorial was officially unveiled on Murray Bridge’s Adelaide Road – the very same road that everyone rushed up and down to get to Melbourne.
This year’s induction ceremony and service was held on November 5 at 11am.
Earlier that morning, two convoys gathered – one in Adelaide and the other in Keith – and made their way to Murray Bridge, merging together to form one cavalcade.
This year more than 50 trucks, many with banners honouring lost friends and loved ones on the grill or bullbar, joined in the procession. They made their way down White Hill through a crowd that numbered in excess of 500.
Once parked, the ceremony commenced with an opening prayer from the Salvation Army’s Tim Watson. Following the prayer, Murray Bridge mayor Brenton Lewis, MP Adrian Pederick and National Road Transport Hall of Fame founder Liz Martin spoke to those gathered.
White Hill Truck Drivers’ Memorial founder and president Keith Wood told those assembled that the two sections of the wall – one dedicated to truck drivers and the other to those who have lost their lives in any work associated with the transport industry – had been named in honour of Tamika and Khaleb Hourn, who tragically lost their lives while travelling in a truck with parents Sharon and Darren. They are depicted shooting an arrow over to each other.
At the conclusion of the service, the convoy regrouped and did a couple of laps of the town, heading down the main street, through the riverbank precinct with horns blaring and finishing up at the Murray Bridge racecourse for a fun family afternoon.
It was a well organised day, highlighted by the auction and log book throwing contests, and with the sun shining there was plenty of undercover seating.
ATA call to get brake chamber standards right
Loose says brake chambers are also important to ensure vehicle compliance
The Australian Trucking Association (ATA’s) updated technical advisory procedure (TAP) on compliant commercial vehicle air brake chambers includes information on acceptable air brake chamber build standards, brake chamber compliance information and warnings against disassembling spring brake chambers.
ATA senior engineering adviser Chris Loose says choosing the right brake chambers is a key step to ensure an effective braking system.
"The use of substandard brake chambers could create an unstable vehicle combination by mixing different brake chamber sizes and brands, negatively affecting the brake balance," Loose says.
Loose reminds users that getting the brake chamber standards right is also important to ensure compliance with the Australian Design Rules.
Truck industry divided over new owner-driver minimum pay rate
The union representing truck drivers has threatened industrial action, in a dispute over pay for contracted drivers.
Trucking industry groups are at odds over the benefits of a new pay scheme, for so-called owner-operator truck drivers, who will be covered by a national minimum wage for the first time
Transport Workers Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon said the scheme would make trucks safer.
"Study after study has found the rates pressure from big clients has caused many drivers to skip maintenance requirements," Mr Sheldon said.
"Should people fight and stand up for a safe and basic rate that maintains their vehicles and makes the roads safer, or should they lay down and accept what the clients are telling them? Well, I'd say fight," he said.
But the National Road Transport Operators Association, Natroads, has criticised the timing and detail of the pay scheme.
Natroads spokesman Geoff Crouch said a national minimum pay rate for owner drivers could make employing them undesirable.
He said if large national companies were suddenly forced to pay substantially higher rates they would simply refuse to use owner-operator drivers.
"It'll force these drivers out of the industry," Mr Crouch said.
Call for delay to start date
The pay rates are mandated in Road Safety Remuneration Order, which is due to take effect from April 4.
Natroads wants the implementation date put back six months, but the TWU is considering industrial action if there is further delay.
In some cases, the remuneration order could amount to an increase of up to 60 per cent, and will also apply a pay scale to drivers queuing for delivery.
Mr Crouch said industry groups were finding it hard to get information about how it applied to them.
He said calls to the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal were referred to the Road Safety Ombudsman, who then referred it back again.
"No-one is able to give any information, and that is simply not acceptable, given that we are just weeks away from its implementation."
"The problem we have got is the studies that the RSRT was working on don't have any demonstrated links that higher rates of pay will result in higher safety on our roads."
But the TWU believes the pay increase alone will result in better maintenance.
"(Owner drivers are saying) We deserve and our families deserve, and other road users deserve, a fair return on our capital investment, and it needs to be safe, it needs to be genuine, and it needs to be fair."
Riverina Truck Show 2016
The Riverina Truck Show has been run and won, and you didn’t have to be a truck buff to enjoy it.
The show was held in late September at Wagga Wagga on the crossroads between Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Thousands from the trucking-friendly city lined sections of the route between the livestock saleyards at Bomen, the bottom end of the main street and the shores of Lake Albert. Wagga highway patrol police lent a hand in blocking off roads.
Despite an overcast sky organisers estimate 8,000 people turned out at the lake for the truck display and family fun day with attractions including not only shiny trucks, but classic cars and bikes; market stalls; trade stalls; amusement rides for the kids; live music; and even power boat and tinnie racing. The grand finale was a fireworks display from pontoons on the lake.
"Everyone’s catered for," says treasurer of the Riverina Truck Show and Kids Convoy, Lloyd Wishart. To top it off the day raised more than $40,000 for charity.
Wagga City Council, one of the major sponsors of the day, has now classed the show as a "major event" for the regional city.
Next year’s show is set down for September 23 and will again co-incide with "Thunder on the Lake" organised by Wagga Wagga Boat Club.
The day raised $42,000 for Give Me 5 For Kids, N.E.T.S NSW, Amie St Clair Melanoma Trust and Trans-Help Foundation.
1st Lead Truck: Andrew Bell, Lindsay Bros, $3,800
Best Fleet: Farey’s Transport, Wagga
Best Owner Driver: Scott Menz Transport, Kenworth T650
Best Cab-over: Ashley Hall, Farey’s Transport, Kenworth K200
Best Under 3 Years: Daniel Kerrison, Scott Boxell Transport, K200
Best 3-10 Years: Ben Davies, Menzplant, Kenworth T408 SAR
Best 10-20 Years: Adam Manwaring, Manwaring Transport
Best 20-plus Years: Des Gibbs, Ford F600
Best Working: Jacob Cochrane, Kenworth T909
Best Rigid: Wayne Wishart, Langfields Transport, Fuso
Best Bonneted: Ian Clarke, T908
Best Dressed: Cameron Farey, Farey’s Transport, T909
Winner of the Mitsubishi Mirage raffle: Robert Parker
Navman launches MYTRUCK III GPS
In-cab unit promises truck driver focus with safety, travel and navigation options
Positioning equipment manufacturer Navman has unveiled the MyTruck III GPS, a truck-focused in-cab navigation unit that aims to cover all driver needs.
Shipping with a six-inch display, the new sat-nav unit features B-double- and HAZMAT-tailored navigation options, a trip planner, fuel search capability, hands-free safety information features, food and travel guides, and roadside assistance functionality.
Priced at $499, with a two-year warranty, Navman Australia country director Wendy Hammond says the company "wanted to improve the driving experience for truck drivers, so we developed MyTruck III with the help of truck drivers who tested the product vigorously and provided useful feedback, which we then used to enhance the device."
"Not only does it plan correct routes for trucks, the GPS is also packed with relevant information that truck drivers need, such as nearby petrol stations and rest stops," she says.
"We know safety is important for drivers who cover many kilometres and spend so much time on the road, so the device comes packed with the most sophisticated GPS safety features currently available.
"The MYTRUCK III also features a faster processor, so it can calculate and re-calculate routes then guide you even quicker than before."
For those who drive B-doubles of HAZMAT-restricted vehicles, Navman says the professional truck mode removes the need for road gazettes.
"Now truck drivers simply enter the truck’s dimensions and loads, and the Navman MYTRUCK III will show routes suitable for the vehicle, avoiding roads, tunnels and bridges with height, width, length, weight, load, large vehicle and hazardous material restrictions," Navman says.
For those with multiple stops, the trip planner function provides drivers with the efficient, truck-friendly route that encompasses them all.
When it comes to safety, the new Navman unit has a number of audible warnings.
The premium driver alerts inform the driver of an approaching dangerous situation, such as sharp bends, steep gradients, overtaking lanes, lane merges and windy areas.
When coming up to speed limit changes, safety cameras and school zones, the unit will also alert drivers to the exact situation through spoken safety alerts.
The unit’s safety functions also extend to driver fatigue alerts and roadside assistance – through a Bluetooth hands-free connection to a phone, the unit can pinpoint a location and nearby mechanics.
The maps are updated monthly, Navman says, and live traffic updates are provided to help with congestion avoidance.
For those in foreign locations, the unit grabs information from the Zomato Guide and Lonely Planet Travel Guides to direct drivers to food, tourist attractions and accommodation.
New Perth road train assembly area complete
Marmion sees facility as a boon to industry and residents
Construction has been completed on a new 28-bay road train assembly area (RTAA) at Abernethy Road in Forrestfield, Western Australian transport minister Bill Marmion has announced.
The $5 million RTAA is described as an important link in the Gateway WA Perth Airport and Freight Access Project.
"This assembly area will greatly improve productivity, safety and amenity for the freight industry by reducing congestion on local roads," Marmion says.
"Road trains, which previously had to park on local roadsides for trailer breakdown and assembly, now have a safe bitumen sealed area to park, drop a trailer and then deliver their loads to destinations.
"Freight operators will also no longer need to wait at the heavily congested intersections of Leach Highway or Kewdale Road/Horrie Miller Drive in order to travel southbound on Tonkin Highway or to connect to Roe Highway.
"By removing the majority of oversize load movements from the surrounding roads in Forrestfield, which are mainly residential, we are also improving safety for other road users in the community."
Using the RTAA as a 'shortcut' will improve productivity and efficiency for the freight industry by reducing the travel distance for oversized loads by 3.7 km.
The governments says the RTAA is facilitated by the Abernethy Road on-ramp as it allows direct driveway access to Tonkin Highway and has been specifically designed to enable this manoeuvre by oversize loads.
"Escorted oversized loads can now travel down the on-ramp from Tonkin Highway, using the purpose-built high wide load crossover in the RTAA to bypass the signalised junction and get directly onto Abernethy Road," it adds.
CHINA JOINS THE AUTONOMOUS TRUCK ARMS RACE
China has emerged as a new player in the charge towards autonomous trucks with the unveiling of a concept from Foton and technology company Baidu – the Baidu Intelligent Vehicle.
Named as the ‘super truck’, the car is powered by both Baidu’s limited self-driving automation and Foton’s driverless technologies and big data of commercial vehicles.
Baidu had been developing autonomous technology in conjunction with BMW until the two-year arrangement came to a halt this week.
According to general manager of Baidu Intelligent Vehicle, Gu Weihao, the commercial vehicle market presents a more viable sector for autonomous vehicles because of the significant benefits to safety, efficiency and operating costs.
“The mass deployment and implementation of driverless commercial cars may witness a boom as strong demand is projected for non-price sensitive buyers, usually company buyers,” Weihao said.
“We’ll further collaborate with commercial vehicle OEMs to develop self-driving solutions and build typical application scenarios.
“On the other hand, being one of pioneers in the industry, we’d like to introduce more self-driving technology providers to participate and grab a piece of the market share.”
The Chinese transport industry is worth in excess of $300 billion with more than 7.2 million trucks on the road. It is estimated driver wages account for approximately 40 per cent of running costs – which would be significantly reduced by autonomous trucks.
Baidu and Foton will be trailing its developments in 10 cities throughout China over the coming months in a range of conditions.
Sneak peek at Western Star’s 50th anniversary truck
Gearing up for the company’s 50th anniversary in 2017, Western Star Trucks Australia has taken to social media to release a teaser trailer for an upcoming addition to its ranks – the ‘Road Star’ truck.
The one-minute clip features exterior and interior shots of the new truck, showing its redesigned bumper and in-cab amenities offering “the ultimate in driver comfort.”
There’s no word as yet as to when an official announcement will follow, just an instruction from the truck maker to “stay tuned for more.”
Check out the announcement video on Facebook.
Dairy giant admits fatigue fault
Murray Goulburn pledges from now on its staff will knock on the door of any waiting truck drivers who fall asleep at its big Melbourne warehouse
Chain of responsibility on fatigue has been around since 1997, but there is precious little to show for it when it comes to trucking customers. Dairy giant Murray Goulburn is a case in point.
Nearly two decades of the chain of responsibility has apparently had limited effect on Australia’s biggest dairy company. Until now, drivers waiting at the big distribution centre at Laverton North in Melbourne have had to stay alert, sometimes for hours on end, past their timeslots.
Drivers have to listen out to an FM radio frequency for their rego plate and dock number to be called.
There is no guaranteed knock on the door; no pager/buzzer system; and no simple phone call with advice provided on how to block out all undesired calls if the driver needs to sleep.
Until now drivers didn’t know that someone will knock on the door if they fall asleep and miss their call – unless they are lucky enough to have previously fallen asleep anyway.
"Our driver induction will be updated with information about this back-up process," pledges Murray Goulburn in an email to Owner//Driver, in response to our questions. "All MG site staff are trained to knock on the cab should a driver miss a radio call."
Long distance Driver X says he’s been in and out of Murray Goulburn’s William Angliss Drive DC dozens of times over the past few years, and was still visiting there at the time of writing. But until told by Owner//Driver, he has never known he would still hold his place if he climbed into the bunk.
The implications for driver and public safety back out on the highway are obvious, although in this driver’s case he’s lucky enough to be able to get off the road by midnight and delay his interstate deliveries.
Being on kilometre rate he is not paid for waiting at Murray Goulburn.
It’s not always cream carting
Trucks going in and out of the Laverton North DC are a mixture of long distance, regional and local; with the DC products including long life milk, milk powder and refrigerated cheese.
Owner//Driver spoke with several different drivers working for several different trucking companies.
The drivers have similar stories, saying over the years the waits have usually been acceptable, but can sometimes blow out.
One of them described the process as "dehumanising", because there are no real-time humans involved until the trucks are actually on the docks. So drivers can’t get an idea of how long they’ll be waiting once they arrive.
"It could be five minutes or an hour or five hours – you never know," says Driver X, adding he’s waited up to 7 hours. He estimates his average wait is two hours after the timeslot, and that is before the actual loading or unloading. (Drivers are allowed to arrive 55 minutes before the timeslot.)
However Murray-Goulburn insists that "average vehicle turnaround time is 90 minutes".
"Recently there have been some longer delays than usual due to the implementation of a new computer system. During this time, MG has worked with carriers to preload vehicles where possible to avoid long haul drivers being exposed to delays. These delays have now been resolved."
Murray Goulburn seems to deny that drivers don’t know how long they’ll be waiting: "All shipments are issued with specific timeslots and we have close dialogue with all carriers to provide status updates," the company says.
Driver X says his manager would definitely call him if informed of a delay, but says that has never happened.
There is nothing in the MG response about directly informing drivers of delays.
Not easy listening
Drivers say just having to listen to the Murray Goulburn radio "station" is fatiguing enough.
On one frequency – FM 92.5 – there is an automated voice on a constant loop, occasionally calling rego plates and dock numbers. Mostly it’s warnings and instructions about smoking, random drug tests, site evacuation, the 15km/h speed limit, staying in trucks, staying in designated pathways, safety vests and footwear etc.
Here’s an ironic one: "Drivers suffering the effects of fatigue are not permitted on MG sites."
Despite all this constant automated talk, when we listened in a car on the street before contacting MG, there was nothing on the radio about getting a knock on the door if you fall asleep.
On the other "station" – 89.5 – there is music interrupted by the automated voice. Depending on your musical tastes, the songs we heard could be a form of torture.
Meanwhile there are no driver facilities other than toilets.