At the IRTENZ conference in October 2017, Warwick Wilshier was presented with the IRTENZ Outstanding Industry Achievement Award for services to log truck safety.
Photo: Warwick Wilshier has spent his entire life in an industry he loves, passionate about raising the performance and standards of all involved.
Warwick was a founding member of the Log Truck Safety Council (LTSC) in 1996, and has served as chair for the past 18 years. The LTSC is a pan-industry collaborative of truck operators, transport researchers, trailer manufacturers, forest owners, legislators, and enforcement agencies. It is recognised as the premier source of log transport research and industry knowledge that leads the world in innovative, sustainable and safe best practice log transport operations. IRTENZ president Dom Kalasih said today’s log truck industry was unrecognisable compared with the one faced by the group that established the LTSC in 1996. Warwick Wilshier grew up in Otorohanga in the King Country and started his career as a diesel mechanic with the New Zealand Forest Service.
“They had a big workshop in the Waipa Sawmill and they also had their own log trucks, so that’s where I probably got my interest for log trucks. When I finished my time I managed to buy one of the contractor’s businesses so started as an ownerdriver in 1982. A few years later I formed a partnership with one of the other contractors, Gary Williams, and started the business known today as Williams and Wilshier.” Warwick’s first truck was a White Road Boss. “I’ve still got it. It’s a yard truck, it’s used quite a bit for taking things to the testing station and stuff like that. I kept that, and I also bought back the first Kenworth I got in 1985, and did it up for the 50 years of Kenworth celebration in 2014.”
Warwick’s grandfather had a timber mill and he says he was brought up around forests – in those days native forests. “I was always keen on something to do with trucks or forestry. I lived in Rotorua and we started hauling from Kaingaroa Forest – that was my first contract – to the Waipa Sawmill. I think there were 10 or 12 owner-drivers and some company trucks. I did that for a few years and then we obviously picked up an additional contract with the NZ Forest Service hauling to Kinleith, and grew our business from there.” In the late 1980s Warwick went to Canterbury and bought a transport company in partnership with Mark McCarthy, hauling logs. He stayed there until 1998 when he returned to the North Island to help run their growing business in the Bay of Plenty, and Northland.
Photo: The truck that got him started in 1982. Still in the fleet today as a yard truck.
“By that time we’d started a company called Paragon Haulage, which operated initially here in the Bay of Plenty then expanded into Northland. For a short time we also had a company in Southland. We’d grown all around the place I guess.” Warwick sold the Northland business in 2007 and now concentrates on the Bay of Plenty and the East Cape.
“We have two depots, one here in Rotorua and one in Gisborne, and the operation is split about 50:50. We have about 100 staff and every year the drivers haul about 1.2m logs and cover about 6,000,000 kilometres. Between the two companies we’ve got about 70-odd company trucks and 20 owner-driver trucks. I am also a shareholder in Pacific Haulage in Gisborne, which is another 40-odd trucks.” Warwick says they just deal in logs, both exports and deliveries to the mills. It used to be an even spread but today Warwick says it’s more weighted to export logs. The work that led to the establishment of the LTSC was nothing new for Warwick, as he says he had been involved in industry organisations from the early days. “In 1996 we formed the Log Transport Safety Council. At the time there was an unacceptably high number of truck crashes and government basically said it was unacceptable. They gave us a choice to either sort it out ourselves or they would.”
Warwick says the industry was under a pretty heavy threat that all trailers would be taken off the road if the crashes continued. “Back then they were quoting stats of one in 11 log trucks would roll over every year. There weren’t a lot of log trucks on the road then, say 650 or something like that, so it was unacceptably high.” After the government challenged the industry to do something about it, interested parties got together and formed the LTSC. Warwick says it was the best thing the industry ever did. “We had to take some immediate steps, so we decided to voluntarily reduce the load height on our trucks to improve stability and try and get things under control. Three-axle trailers were 3.6m overall height and 4-axle trailers were 3.8m. Then we set about a plan whereby we engaged with all the government agencies that were involved, but particularly Land Transport New Zealand [now NZTA]. With their assistance we brought in TERNZ [an independent research organisation that specialises in transport-related issues], and started to look at the key things we needed to change.”
Photo: A new Kenworth in young company ‘getting into it’ on Te Ngae Rd
Warwick says improved vehicle stability was one factor, also changing the culture of the drivers and looking at the loads being transported. “We engaged with the wider industry and did a roadshow. We explained to the drivers what the issues were, a bit about vehicle dynamics, and we explained to all the parties why we put these voluntary measures in place, and then things just developed from there.” The Logging Industry Research Organisation (LIRO) was also involved and facilitated the group being set up. “You had to get everyone to buy into it. There were all sorts of measures that we put into place from there, while we were trying to redesign logging vehicles. We started monitoring some of the crashes and built a rollover database. We looked at where the high crash areas were, the corners that really needed attention, we put in place the 10-Below campaign that’s still out there today, and at one stage we even monitored those corners to make sure those vehicles were travelling 10-Below. It was all part of an agreement with the government.” Warwick said the initiative had an effect within months, but while they changed vehicle dynamics around and did a lot of testing and other things, the really big buy-in was from the drivers.
“At the beginning the government believed the cause of the crashes was the bolsters falling off the trailers. So we did a lot of physical testing, and we set up test trailers, did all sorts of things to show that it wasn’t the case, but through that we developed what’s called the bolster attachment code, which is part of the transport rules today. We then had to become involved with engineers, so today there’s a qualification that they have to pass to be qualified to certify log vehicles.” TOGETHER with the NZ Transport Agency, the LTSC developed a programme where engineers apply to LTSC to sit an examination to attain a qualification to certify log bolster attachments. The engineers have to demonstrate industry experience, and be approved by the LTSC. The work undertaken to prove the bolsters were not coming off led to a change in the design of log vehicles. “We then began a pretty exhaustive programme of convincing the government – at that time 20 metres was the longest vehicle you could have – that if we were allowed to extend our load over the vehicle to 22 metres overall, that we could significantly improve the vehicle stability and safety. The government granted us an exemption to the rule, which is still available today, with individual exemptions granted to vehicles.” As soon as the government approved the 22-metre length, the industry set about redesigning trucks and trailers to make them safer and more stable.
“We’re now at 23 metres, which is even better. And now the average log trailer is probably running at an SRT [static roll threshold] of about .45G, which is significantly higher than the legal requirement in New Zealand, which is .35. We’re normally running at .45 or better.” Warwick says the LTSC worked closely with TERNZ to understand vehicle stability, work that led to TERNZ winning an international award.
Photo: Owner-drivers have played a significant part in the Williams and Wilshier story. Here Maurice Daniels crosses the overbridge at Kawerau.
“They used a bit of research from overseas and developed what they called the SRT calculator. It was a paper-based calculation that an operator could do, measuring the wheelbase of the trailer, the height of the bolster bed, the height of the payload, and come up with this calculation of SRT. From there the government picked it up. By then there was computerbased technology and now they’ve legislated it for every trailer on the road. But it was thanks to the LTSC and TERNZ’s engineer, John De Pont, who developed it. It was one of the simplest performance requirements to improve the stability of the whole transport fleet in New Zealand.” Warwick is reluctant to take all the credit for the work done over the years by the LTSC, saying because he’s been the chairman for 18 years he gets to pick up a few of the awards, but he’s by no means the one who has single-handedly made it happen.
“Mark McCarthy was one of the founding members. One of the ones who really drove it who is not with us today was Martin Hyde; he put an enormous amount of effort in, particularly around canvassing people in government agencies and politicians. He did an enormous amount of work to get longer, lower, safer vehicles. He really believed in it, that was his passion.”
Warwick says so many people were involved that he would be hard-pressed to mention them all, but they all played a part in the success of the LTSC. “There were a lot of guys who are still in business today, but there has been a core group that has driven it; that’s always the way in industry organisations. Today we’re still recognised by NZTA and by the government as one of the most successful industry organisations. Every problem that’s put in front of us we take up and we try to manage things ourselves. And we’ve had lots of support from the government and various agencies for doing that.” Driver training was also a large part of making the logging industry safer.
Photos: The face of a contemporary log trucks; longer, lower, heavier, safer. Warwick’s been instrumental in their creation, making the roads today a safer place to travel.
“When they first developed the National Certificate in Road Transport, we developed a separate strand for a National Certificate for log truck drivers. A lot of the guys in the council didn’t believe that really acknowledged the experience of a driver, so we developed what we call the log transport LTSC Pathway Programme.” Warwick says Glen Heybourne, who was at the time general manager of Stuart Drummond in Nelson, but now works for Heavy Trucks as a salesman, was very passionate about driver training, as was Mark McCarthy. “We’ve gone on to develop these different qualifications and this pathway that acknowledges industry experience. But all the time it was about lifting the professionalism in the industry. It’s a known fact the money you spend in driver training and lifting professionalism you don’t spend in crash repairs. So that’s been a huge success for us.” Upskilling was something Warwick says he and the others on the LTSC were always great believers in.
“Back then you had to have certain qualifications to obtain some of your contracts, so right from then we had systems and processes that were part of our contract requirements, and along with that came good health and safety management, and training. That’s probably put the logging industry, the log transport sector, well ahead. It’s a high-risk industry so we can’t afford to have risk-takers or unskilled people.” The improved safety brought about from the establishment of the LTSC has put a big onus on companies to employ drivers who will maintain the gains achieved. “The main players in our team like Mark and myself are passionate and it’s pretty gutting when there are accidents, particularly if they involve fatalities. Both of us run reasonably big fleets, by no means the size of other companies in New Zealand, but you honestly don’t expect accidents to happen. You feel confident with the equipment you run, and the skill of the drivers that you employ, that it shouldn’t happen.” He says logging is not an easy game; they cart a low-value commodity in what is potentially a high-risk industry.
“Therefore you are expected to perform at 100% of your game at all times. That’s a big call, but if that means you have trucks parked up because you don’t have enough drivers who fit the criteria and you feel safe having them out there, that they’re not a risk-taker and they’re not going to endanger anybody, so be it. You park the trucks up. We’ve had to make the call and let a few guys go who were risk-takers, and you knew that at some point in time they were going to cause somebody some harm.” The esteem the LTSC is held in has led to the NZTA involving them in an advisory group for the new performance based standards (PBS) they plan to introduce. “NZTA are going to implement performance based standards, which is basically a suite of measures that enables an engineer to determine whether a new vehicle design is safe to be on the road. It’s an honour for us to be involved. At the moment we’re looking for a little more load overhang, we’re looking to slightly increase the overall length – not the vehicle, just the load.” Warwick says this will enable the industry to have as many long and low loads as possible. “Longer, lower and safer has been our mantra – Martin’s mantra. We’re pushing NZTA to develop a new pro forma for us but obviously it’s got to meet the new PBS requirements. And log trucks do.”
This all comes on top of the latest vehicle enhancements such as ABS and EBS and roll stability control. Warwick says because a log truck is either loaded or carrying the trailers on the back, until recently they had an exemption from the brake rule regarding load, because they didn’t need load sensing. “But honestly, since the Government mandated electronic brakes and roll stability control, well, you wouldn’t be without it. It changes drivers’ behaviour and their driving style, making them a lot smoother. If a driver goes into a corner too quick, it puts the brakes on. To start with the driver hates it. And then he goes, ‘if I line the corner up and drive a lot smoother, it won’t come on’, and that’s what they do, and it actually improves their driving style.”
With the continually improving technology, the concern is how to cope with the huge growth in the industry. “We might be investing in new equipment, but somebody’s buying our old equipment, so there’s still an element of risk out there on the road. But maybe it doesn’t do the number of ks we do in a year and it’s not used all the time. There’s still a good market for it.” THE LTSC doesn’t just concern itself with vehicle safety and driver training, it also looks at the health of the drivers. “Martin brought it to the table and said, ‘a lot of our drivers are getting older, we really need to understand what their health issues are’. They all want to stay in the industry as long as they can, they don’t want to be forced to retire. What came out of the initial health study was obviously trucks drivers have an elevated risk of heart disease because of the type of job it is – they might carry a bit of extra weight, their diets were not that good – so our older drivers were facing a few of those issues.”
Another issue was the type of work log truck drivers had to do, particularly throwing chains over loads. “It becomes a repetitive strain injury so those guys who have been in the game for 10 years-plus start to have these rotator cuff injuries and their shoulders wear out. We did an initial survey of driver health and at the same time we got the drivers to tell us what were the things they were concerned about, what caused them, what were the things they struggled with every day.”
Warwick said the results were interesting, that apart from health issues there was an issue of fatigue, and that fatigue problems were higher in younger drivers who had to balance their work and home life with young children. “We typically start early in the mornings and finish midafternoon so they had to balance all that sort of lifestyle. We found that as drivers got older, they didn’t have the same fatigue risk, because by then their children had left home.” This data was looked at alongside the data on truck rollovers, and they discovered the highest risk of rollover was on a Monday or Tuesday, and then the risk flattened out, which was totally the opposite of what they expected.
Warwick says the reason behind that was the early morning starts and early afternoon finishes. The drivers were doing that Monday to Friday, and by the end of the weekend their body clock started to revert back to a more typical sleep pattern. “By Sunday afternoon they’d dropped back a little bit, didn’t sleep that well Sunday night because they are away early Monday morning, and you can’t be late on your first day, and so that was our highest risk of fatigue, and therefore rollovers. In some regions we’ve put in place later starts on Mondays, and even the loader drivers start an hour later on a Monday.” Warwick says identifying all the risks has enabled the LTSC to write their own Codes of Practice, including Load Security. “The agency said, ‘if you do conclusive physical testing, supported by theory, to reduce the injury risk to your drivers, we’ll reconsider the load security code for log trucks’. So if you compare it today, a flat deck truck carrying a load of timber or goods that has to be chained on, the combined rating of the chains is twice the payload mass. Because a log truck has a cab guard and it has bolsters, there is a concession because they hold the loads. Our rule used to be half the payload mass and now it’s a quarter. So if you consider double for a load of timber, quarter for a log truck, we can use lighter chains to help reduce driver injury.
Photo: Majestic machines and mighty loads. Off highway work is an integral part of Williams and Wilshier’s operations.
“We don’t use the old standard twitches and bars any more, that’s all been redeveloped. We got our own twitches developed, there are lots of innovations that the industry’s brought in and we’ve got NZTA and the various agencies to sign it off and support it, but it’s all been in the interests of improving safety and looking after our drivers.” With increased harvesting of small blocks, Warwick says there can be issues when log trucks suddenly appear on previously quiet rural roads. “You’ve got the two big estates of Kaingaroa and Kinleith forests, but outside of that, as the harvest increases, we’re going further out into rural areas to what they call the 90s plantings. This means there is interaction with the public, with rural schools, farms and roads – roads that haven’t had log trucks on them at all suddenly come under pretty intense pressure.” Warwick says the LTSC works with the public and the local authorities and interested parties such as schools, cycle action safety groups, etc. “We are having to work in some really difficult terrain, and the roads are failing because there has been underinvestment. That puts us under even greater risk. We’ve recently had a couple of accidents that occurred on a one-lane road with a blind corner with a mirror on it, where two log trucks hit each other. Nobody was injured but there was a significant amount of damage. Those are the kinds of roads we are operating on, which are not fit for purpose, but that’s where the forests are.” The LTSC also works with forest owners to deliver safety programmes into rural schools. “Schools are a big thing for us. Hancock Forest Management in Northland started the Share the Road programme, and it developed from there, and now alongside what we do in the logging industry, the RTF and ACC and others have got together and taken up the challenge for the wider transport industry.
“It’s definitely broken the barriers as far as getting people to understand what we do. That’s a big one. Log trucks are the face of forestry; the only thing that people in the public understand about trees is log trucks, so there’s a huge responsibility on us. It’s probably about the third biggest export earner, and all people see is log trucks, so it’s a big challenge.”