Safety reformation: Transport Certification Australia

Safety reformation: Transport Certification Australia

The first type-approved on-board mass systems marks a momentous shift towards greater accountability and safety, with productivity gains available, explains Transport Certification Australia’s Gavin Hill. 

In 1989, the Heart Foundation introduced its Tick Program to guide shoppers towards healthier food choices. 

The simple, easy to recognise logo saw collaboration from food manufacturers and according to the Heart Foundation, drove manufacturers to change their products to meet consumer expectations for healthier food. The sweeping changes over the years included encouraging companies to introduce margarines with less than one per cent fat, removing 235 tonnes of salt annually from Australian cereal and reducing salt in up to 92 per cent of ALDI breads, rolls and English muffins.

Gavin Hill, Transport Certification Australia (TCA) General Manager Strategic Development, says TCA performs a similar role in validating in-vehicle telematics and related intelligent technologies used in vehicles.

In August of this year, TCA announced the first type-approved on-board mass (OBM) systems from Loadmass and Tramanco. Often referred to as on-board weigh scales or electronic weighing systems, OBM Systems are widely used across the surface transport sector for commercial, contractual and regulatory purposes. OBM Systems are able to measure the mass of axle groups and calculate the gross vehicle mass of a vehicle – important considerations for operators monitoring safe loads, productivity and holding themselves accountable against legal requirements – be they in contract or legislation. 

“The feedback from Tramanco and Loadmass has been that a number of customers have been waiting for the announcement of type-approval and they’ve been awash with requests for orders for type-approved equipment,” Gavin says.

“For the first time it gives them independent validation that their gear is up to the mark. If you’re a supplier in any market, you can say anything to your customers, but unless it has an independent tick of approval, how can you prove you have met the grade?”

He adds that type-approved systems also add a layer of certainty for consumers to know their purchasing accredited products. 

As a national government body, TCA provides advice, accreditation and administration services in the use of telematics and intelligent technologies, spanning hardware, services, providers, applications and programs.

There are three categories of OBM Systems (Categories A, B and C) which meet the needs of stakeholders and display mass information to drivers and/or loaders. Category A covers systems which electronically display mass information to drivers and/or loaders, while Category B collects and transmits mass information and Category C does the same but allows for plug and play with telematics devices. 

The type-approval of Tramanco and Loadmass systems comes after TCA released its OBM System Functional and Technical Specification last year which incorporated requirements for a range of areas such as data collection, security and transfer and storage, functionality, and environmental and physical characteristics. 

OBM Systems aim to ensure improve performance-based outcomes, as opposed to a prescribed technological approach. Gavin says the new type-approved systems are particularly relevant given the changes to Chain of Responsibility laws. As of October 1, everyone in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain has a duty to ensure the safety of their transport activities and can be held liable for this. 

According to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), Australia’s independent regulator for all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes’ gross vehicle mass, the aim of the new CoR laws is to ensure everyone in the supply chain shares responsibility for ensuring Heavy Vehicle National Law breaches do not occur. Under the CoR, if you are named as a party in the chain of responsibility, and you exercise or are capable of exercising control or influence over any transport task, you have a responsibility to ensure you comply with the law. 

“OBM systems have been around for a decade and are nothing new, but what is new is the type-approved performance required,” Gavin says.

“We often hear from the waste sector they have issues with overloading and it’s often refuse vehicles out in the suburbs determining when they need to go back and offload. Sometimes this is hit and miss and is based on averages or local knowledge and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny if you’re challenged in the law.” 

OBM Systems aim to improve performance-based outcomes on the road.

He adds that knowing correct weights is important if operators are audited or involved in a legal case. He says that surprisingly, there isn’t much disparity between government and waste fleet managers, with both on the same page.

Aside from the benefits in safety, Gavin says that interoperability is also a modern consideration. OBM systems form part of the National Telematics Framework, which sees the integration of common infrastructure rules through a government endorsed digital business platform. 

“Telematics has traditionally been about asset management – knowing where your mobile asset is. 

“In that context, it doesn’t need to be interoperable because the information is only going to you as a business operator. But as we move to an increasingly connected world, where telematics are moving into OBM and vehicle infrastructure communications, you have to be part of an interoperable ecosystem.”

He predicts that over the next few years, type-approved systems will be a necessity for safety and compliance. Gavin adds that other safety leaders such as bridge engineers also require information on vehicle loads to assess the amount of payloads that can be carried from one location to another. 

“Bridge engineers have to make certain assumptions about the loads of vehicles when their doing assessments for higher productivity vehicles. The assumptions they make are inherently conservative and is one of the sources of frustration about some of the decisions made by road agencies,” Gavin says.

He notes that last year the Australian Standard for bridge assessment (AS 5100.7:2017) – which was developed in conjunction with Austroads – incorporates reduced traffic load factors for vehicles monitored with TCA certified telematics applications – namely, the Intelligent Access Program and On-Board Mass – which provides renewed opportunities to improve access to the road network for higher productivity vehicles.

“What on-board mass gives you is some visibility in the number of vehicles using a bridge or set of bridges and more importantly, the loads being carried. Like everything in life, if you know what you’re managing you can make better and more defined decisions.” 

“That means there’s a higher probability across the network in getting a yes to a productivity reform, rather than a no.” 

Gavin says that what it means is that type-approved OBM systems not only need multiple regulations, across a diverse range of industry sectors, but these can be used to unlock productivity reforms which would not previously have been on the table.

“Although we’ve announced the first two type-approved OBM systems, others are currently being progressed through the type-approval process,” he says.

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