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How to change your freight task from general freight to grain transport

General freight (line haul) to grain transport (farm gate to silo)

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many transport companies are diversifying, taking on new freight tasks and routes. These changes are an important business opportunity but, as with any change, risk management is an important part of management’s responsibilities.

When drivers have a freight task change as a result of a new contract or opportunity they may need specific training to update their skills and minimize the risk of an incident or injury. When considering such training, it’s important to think about the following:

  • Freight task and site-specific training requirements: including any mandated by regulation or the site operator.
  • OH&S requirements for specific freight tasks: such as for working at height, or for climbing up and down from rigids, trailers or prime movers.
  • Site-specific requirements: such as Loading Unloading Exclusion Zones (LUEZ), or direction of travel in depots.
  • Load restraint training: for tasks requiring freight to be restrained the driver, with reference to the Load Restraint Guide.

As always, err on the side of caution when it comes to training and safety. If you (or your drivers) are unsure whether instruction is needed, assume that it is.

Freight task changes in practice

There are a few factors to consider but it mostly comes down to understanding your drivers’ skills, the new tasks requirements, and using some common sense. Consider the example of a driver changing from general freight (line haul) to grain transport (paddock to silo):

Changes to prime mover operations and procedures (e.g. Kenworth to Scania):

  • Automatic gearboxes: differences and operation
  • Engine brake versus retarder: applications and operation
  • Cummins engine versus Scania: torque curve, fuel economy
  • Cabin controls: location and operation
     

Changes to trailer operations and procedures:

  • Line haul general freight may have been using flat tops or Tautliner
    • Tipping loads will consistently have a high centre of gravity
  • Coupling and uncoupling process will be new; drivers will need training on how to couple and uncouple hydraulic hoses to maintain minimum exposure of couplings to dirt contamination, female on trailer and male on prime mover.
  • Tipping procedures to be explained and practical tipping operation to be demonstrated and then practiced by driver.
  • In-paddock operation to be explained to driver:
    • Check soil to see if loss of traction may be an issue (sandy soils)
    • Load on level ground as loading on a slope will affect air gauge readings
    • Train driver on operation of on-board scales or air gauges
    • Explain HVNL requirements when transporting grain from farm gate to silo
    • Explain mass limits if driver is unsure (standard mass vs against HML)

 

TIP: VicRoads’ Heavy Vehicle Rollover Prevention Program will be very helpful here

 

SITE-SPECIFIC RULES: Most grain storage facilities have specific site safety rules and traffic management plans.

Drivers must understand the transport requirement in the Australian Grain Industry Code of Practice Section 2.6 Transport. In particular:

A. Explain why trailer cleanliness is important when a different grain is to be transported or there is a change from grain to fertilizer transport. Trailers must not have any residue grains or fertilizer when there is a task change, or the new load will be contaminated.

B. Explain and demonstrate the operation of the rolling tarp as trailers must be tarped and there are various methods of operation.

NOTE: All sites, regardless of who owns them, have safety rules in place and they may vary depending on the company involved. Make sure that you understand what is required at each site.

 

Assess your risks

The key is to reduce your exposure to risk. Due diligence before taking on any new freight task is the key; if you don’t understand the risks, you won’t be able to manage them. The checklist and links below are a good starting point, and your insurer will be able to help answer any questions about risks and risk management. The work you put in preparing for a new task will more than pay for itself in hassle-free driving and smooth operations.

Checklist:

  1. Ask the driver if this is the freight task and hours they wish to work
  2. Check the driver has the right Driver License Class endorsed on their license
  3. Check the driver has the appropriate DG or Forklift license if required
  4. Check the driver’s literacy and numeracy skills are adequate for task documentation
  5. Confirm the driver is physically fit to do the task (climbing, bending, wheel changing)
  6. Perform a dry run of the task to assess what training the driver needs
  7. Train the driver to the required standard if the dry run highlights skill shortages
  8. Reassess driver skills after a pre-determined time e.g. three weeks

 

Helpful links

Load Restraint Guide

Heavy vehicle rollover prevention program

Australian Grain Industry Code of Practice