26 January, 2024
World-first training resources help dairy tanker drivers face unique challenges
NEW research has resulted in world-first training materials being developed to better equip dairy tanker drivers face the distinct challenges inherent to their profession.
Released on International Dairy Week Australia recently, the training resources include footage of milk inside a tanker as it’s being driven and a see-through model tanker allow drivers to better understand the dynamics of their loads.
Data from the 2020 National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) report identified that dairy tankers are 2.4 times more likely to be involved in a major incident or rollover than other freight vehicles.
The dairy industry is a significant contributor to the Australian economy, producing $4.3 billion and exports of around $621 million of milk annually, according to IBISWorld’s Milk and Cream Processing in Australia report.
There are approximately 5700 dairy farms in Australia, according to Dairy Australia.
National Transport Insurance (NTI) Executive General Manager - Strategy & Supply Chain, Christopher Hogarty said as part of the organisation’s commitment to the safety and sustainability of the transport industry, annual research is conducted each year into accidents which have occurred.
“When we saw the number for dairy tankers, we knew we had to do something about it,” Mr Hogarty said.
NTI’s Dairy Safety initiative has been partially funded through the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, supported by the Australian Government.
“So we set out to do a crash reduction program for the dairy industry,” Mr Hogarty said.
“We started by reaching out to Australia’s biggest dairy consignors and carriers, then we enlisted some of Australia’s leading transport safety and tanker manufacturing experts including NTI’s Research Manager Adam Gibson.
“We surveyed training materials and spoke with drivers, managers, schedulers and driver trainers.
“We wanted to find out what was working and what wasn’t, to understand industry best practices and identify any knowledge or training gaps.
“We found six areas that can benefit from improved information and training materials.”
The six areas include vehicle types and how they differ, slosh and surge and how they contribute to crashes, electronic stability control systems (ESC) and how they help prevent crashes, and how to mitigate farm, on-road and supply chain risks.
“Then we created videos, guide books and other training materials, even some model dairy tankers to illustrate how milk tanker dynamics are different,” he said.
“The goal is to help drivers and everyone in the chain of responsibility to understand the risks involved and how to mitigate them.
“The new training resources include never-before-seen videos of dairy tanker dynamics including slosh and surge filmed from inside a tanker.
“Also, practical demonstrations of vehicle dynamics using our model tanker trucks, driving demonstrations and a range of other materials to support drivers, managers and back office teams.”
Many variables add to the challenges of farm milk pick-ups including weather, poor roads and the variability of milk amounts collected.
Drivers may pick up between 1000 and 15,000 litres at various farms on a typical run.
This variability adds to the driving challenge as ‘milk gain’- a tanker’s increasing load at each farm - directly relates to a milk tanker’s stability and driveability.
It is particularly dangerous when a tanker is around half full (40%-70%) as the load has significant mass and room to move.
Sloshing and surging present the greatest risks when tankers are at this particular level of capacity.
If a vehicle is in this load range and on a high-risk road section, it will be significantly more challenging for a driver to maintain control of it.
With highly dynamic loads, milk tankers can crash even at relatively low speeds.
There are currently 34 dairy farmers who supply milk from 37 farms on the Atherton Tablelands to the Bega Dairy and Drinks Malanda factory.
CNQ Logistics has the contract to collect the milk of the Atherton Tablelands suppliers.
Managing director of CNQ Logistics (formerly Blue Logistics) Brian Robertson said the training resources would be valuable.
“We are very happy with the efforts that NTI has put into the development of their spilt milk program.
“The educational tools and the videos of what occurs inside the tankers are great.
“We have received a lot of material to share with our drivers. We are rolling out this material when it is convenient to do so.
“I cannot praise them enough for the effort they have put into this program.”