Experts raise flag on lack of daily vehicle checks

By: Steve Skinner


Vital daily check on trucks and trailers aren’t being carried out by a lot of drivers, says a panel of experts

Experts raise flag on lack of daily vehicle checks
Chris Blanchard says daily checks reduce the occurrence of night call-outs. Photo by Marcel Voestermans.

 

Failure to do basic daily checks is rife in the Australian trucking industry.

That’s according to an eminent panel of experts at the most recent Technical and Maintenance Conference (TMC).

One of the most interesting sessions at the TMC in Melbourne late last year was headlined 'Training staff to do daily checks'.

The chair was Chris Blanchard from Herb Blanchard Haulage at Grafton in NSW.

Blanchard led off the session by pointing out the numerous benefits of proper daily checks, including finding problems before they turn into much bigger ones; reducing the costs of after-hours call outs and vehicle towing; less unscheduled vehicle downtime; higher service level to customers; legal evidence of trying to do the right thing if something "goes south"; and of course safety.

The highest profile speaker was the former general manager of Toll linehaul and fleet services, Bob Lovf.

Now in special projects for Toll, Lovf – like all the speakers – had some fairly scary stuff to say about the ability and responsibility of new age drivers.

"Each trip in the late '60s and early '70s was regarded as an adventure into the unknown, and you wanted to know things before you went," Lovf recalled.

"Today, the people we are attracting, they have licenses to drive. There are a lot of other things missing out there.

"Is it completely their fault? No, because we have changed a lot of the structure of how we work."

With the advent of changeovers and shuttles, for example, "you just throw your bag in the truck and drive up the road."

And there is now "three degrees of separation" between the driver and what’s happening right up the back, because of high torque engines and quieter, more comfortable cabs.

Lovf doesn’t expect drivers to check the pressures on every tyre and the tension on every nut, but he does expect them to go around and give the tyres a thump, check for bald ones and look for loose nuts, for example.

 

Eminent panel: Left to right, Richard Brian, DAF; Bob Lovf, Toll; Spud Murphy, Directhaul; and Nick Ciani, Mills Transport.

 

He says there are a range of driver types.

"You have people who still do a great job because we have a lot of people who are older and they have done things for last 30 years that way, but the newer people coming in don’t have that level of bush mechanic expertise to understand the workings of a truck as well as they should.

"And you have the other people that I call ‘deliberate ignorants’, where they don’t want to lose that trip.

"If they find something, they go, and the next person can deal with it."

That gets onto Lovf’s next comment, which will be appreciated by any overnight driver who has inherited an obvious problem when the mechanical workshop is closed and the tyres bloke has gone home.

"We are trying to push post-trip checks as a key, because then you have time to rectify the problem," Lovf says. "Otherwise you’re swapping out … You’ve got to unload a trailer in some cases."

Lovf says Toll is making greater use of electronic technology to simplify and improve things, for example drivers taking mobile phone photos of problems.

The TMC is put on by the Australian Trucking Association, Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association and Paccar.

 

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