As part of its commitment to promote and increase safety best practice across its business, Glen Cameron Group has had NSW Police Chief Inspector Phil Brooks speak to many of its key decision makers at an event in Melbourne.

Held last week at the Knox Club in Melbourne, the wide-ranging safety presentation covered compliance issues facing road transport businesses and included a video presentation highlighting instances of negligence and failure of operators to comply with chain of responsibility (CoR) obligations.

Fatigue management was given a particular focus during the hour long presentation which gathered together safety advisors, sales consultants, project management, warehouse managers, linehaul providers, fleet managers, supervisors, contractors, consultants and key accounts, driver-trainers, compliance co-ordinators, health & safety and contact managers employed or closely associated with freight carrier Cameron’s from across Australia.

Company Director Glen Cameron said freight carriers needed to be aware of where failings can happen. That was sometimes a challenge itself and realising complete awareness was, in part, the reason behind inviting Inspector Brooks to speak to his staff.

“Phil is pretty well skilled and has a great knowledge of what the police force have to go through,” he told Prime Mover.

“We thought it would be a good idea to get him down here to tell it from their perspective.”

Brooks, who has 32 years in the job and works closely with NSW Roads & Maritime Services and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) on crash investigations reported that in his state there were 6.2 million vehicles currently registered and with population growth generating increasing retail, the freight movements from heavy vehicles were only going to escalate.

Numbers had spiked since 2011. With an increase in high rise and congestion there were 240,000 registered motorbikes and scooters in NSW and that number was on the rise according to Brooks.

During the presentation Brooks showed news footage of crashes involving trucks, highway fatalities and incidents of major compliance infringements made by transport companies that he had investigated. There was a recurring theme.

“Fatigue is all the way from the steering wheel to the boardroom. That’s what’s costing lives on our roads,” he said.

“The challenge is twofold. Trying to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe and to keep drivers upright.”

The average age of a truck driver in NSW, according to Brooks, is 54.

“It’s the age that sleep apnea, diabetes and epilepsy all starts to come online,” he said.

Companies, such as the bigger logistics operators, were making inroads in fatigue management and the industry had come a long way from the days where drivers had nowhere to sleep, shower or eat.

The latest technology in trucks is helping enormously according to Brooks. He cited the positive effects seeing eye technology, among others, was having for businesses willing to invest in it.

“The Guardian technology is starting to make a difference,” he said.

“It’s having an impact right across the industry.”

Still, there was much to be done.

“Truck drivers are falling asleep and running off the road, so much so they are having same direction crashes,” Brooks said.

“Meaning they are going up the back of other gear that is going in the same direction,” he said.

“It’s about changing that culture across the board. It’s a critical issue for us and right across the industry.”

Fatigue wasn’t always accrued on the job, working late nights or on linehaul assignments.

Brooks recounted a driver who was not sleeping well. Other drivers knew about it but he chose not to say anything to his managers. The driver ended up crashing into the back of an empty low loader car carrier.

For Brooks the issues can be addressed by looking first at drivers, the truck and the load being carried.

“Certainly in the driver space it’s how we manage their fatigue upfront. We’ve got to make sure we have fatigue management protocols in place,” he said.

Horrific accidents are often resultant from driver distraction, ‘which can include’ mobile phone use according to Brooks.

He made the point that all of them could have been avoided.

The presentation provided a comprehensive overview of the many other safety issues road transport organisations had to be aware of. Drug use. Negligent road restraint. Speeding. Obsolete equipment. Mechanical fatigue. Poor repairs.

Fatigue also applies to load restraint whereby freight was not being properly secured. There were too many cases on the highway in which freight was too high for the trailer gates. In heavy braking situations, freight was rolling onto the road and into passenger vehicles. Container boxes were contributing to roll-overs.

In some dangerous goods carrying a lot of the drivers still don’t have the right emergency gear. It’s the driver who gets hit with the fine, not the load master on the dock.

Across a range of industry sectors’, Brooks has seen failures by businesses that hook up and leave the depot without proper tug tests.

A truck that starts in Perth is pulled over in West Wyalong in NSW, carrying a mining truck radiator. All the straps on the load, Brooks recalls, had snapped.

Container boxes that originate overseas, in which the contents go unrestrained, represent another challenge.

In a growing consumer economy, Sydney has what Brooks refers to as a ‘box challenge.’ They have gone over causing rollovers and grief on roads which as a result come to a standstill for an entire day, disrupting commuters and industry while emergency responders clean it up.

More recently Brooks said there has been an epidemic of truck fires across Sydney.

Some brands are having to retrofit their own gear to try and prevent the high pressure lines from continuing to shake.

Maintenance, on other occasions, is being bypassed – leading to incidents.

Trailers are creating enough friction on the highway to light up the freight.

“It’s a massive issue for the industry. I know the NHVR are looking into it but it’s something that we all need to have a very close look at in the truck and trailer,” said Brooks.

From a policing context, Brooks said there are three key areas that cause truck fires. These are fuel leaks from the engine; wheel bearings that haven’t been serviced or adjusted properly; and in trailer management with movement causing friction that in turn causes fires within the freight.

“It’s around those areas that we’re looking at,” he says. “It’s saying to industry that they need to reduce the risks in all of those areas.”

“Obligations and responsibilities are with the operators,” he said.

“It’s the most efficient way of ending risk on our roads.”

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