Pressure builds for Cootes, but not up the chain

In an announcement, the Minister for Roads in New South Wales, Duncan Gay has said he has ordered all Cootes petrol and gas tankers operating in the state to report for a full compliance inspection. This follows a number of incidents in recent weeks.

In spot checks on the Cootes fleet last week, with 35 inspections overall at Wetherill Park and Port Botany, a number of defects were found. According to the Roads and Maritime Services these checks resulted in 17 vehicles with major defects being ordered off the road for repairs.

“These random inspections uncovered significant failures,” said Gay. “This was in addition to two incidents involving Cootes vehicles late last week which presented major defects. While we acknowledge there have been some improvements in the fleet, it is simply not good enough that in some cases we have seen repairs that don’t meet our standards during a second or third check.

“Despite four months of ongoing work with Cootes and the parent company McAleese, I have ordered all their NSW tankers be subject to Roads and Maritime compliance checks yet again, just as we did immediately after the Mona Vale tragedy. This applies to all tankers that need to operate in NSW, not just the ones registered in NSW.

“I want to assure motorists we have been carrying out extensive inspections and random checks of this fleet since the tragic double fatality on Mona Vale road last October. RMS inspectors have carried out more than 450 checks of the Cootes fleet at inspection stations and on roadsides across the state to ensure compliance with roadworthiness standards.

“As the toughest inspection and enforcement regime in the country, we have taken every possible action including putting the head of the company and the Board of Directors on notice that they are responsible for the safety and roadworthiness of this fleet. NSW will exercise its powers within the full extent of the law to make our roads safe.”

The writing would appear to be on the wall for Cootes, and their owners McAleese, the pressure is unrelenting and the NSW government talks up the chain of responsibility. However, it is interesting to note the threats from Gay are only made to those within the McAleese fold. There is no mention of going further up the chain to see if undue pressure was put on the operation.

Public anxiety about fuel tankers may be assuaged by the unfolding events, but the anxiety on the part of the trucking industry, about the chain of responsibility only being used as a stick to beat transport companies continues.

Today’s the day

We thought this day would never arrive, but it has! The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator takes the reins of regulation for the trucking industry as of this morning. This is the point at which the NHVR has to step up. It has been responsible for the NHVAS and PBS for the past year but now they are in control of many of the regulatory functions which deal with the trucks on the highway.

 

“This is a significant step in our evolution as a one-stop-shop for heavy vehicle road transport business with government,” said Richard Hancock, NHVR CEO in a statement over the weekend. “With one rule book under one regulator, we can now offer a much broader range of services previously delivered by state road authorities and the ACT Government.

 

 

“From today, operators will see streamlined and practical operations and regulation for heavy vehicle access, fatigue management and vehicle inspection standards, as well as more consistent on-road compliance and enforcement outcomes; all matters that impact on the day-to-day business of heavy vehicle operators, large and small.”

 

One of the major changes, and the cause of some of the delays in implementation, is the transferring of the responsibility for the issuing of permits to the NHVR. Transport operators wishing to apply for permits anywhere on the East Coast can now apply through the NHVR website for a permit from the start of their journey to the end without having to worry about whether the route crosses state borders.

 

Requirements for documentation carried in truck cabs will change for some with the introduction of the NHVR. As of February 10 any vehicle accredited under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) must now carry a copy of all the relevant accreditation certificates as well as a document stating the driver has been inducted under the scheme.

 

These new requirements are to be phased in over a few months. Only warnings will be issued for non-compliance with the new rules in the first month, and in the period until August 9, warnings will be issued for the first offence, but enforcement could follow a second offence in this period.

 

By the time the NHVR has had the guernsey for six months the trucking industry will be able to assess just how well the process of change has gone. There are bound to be disappointments but the situation where the NHVR is running the show is almost certainly going to be an improvement for most of the industry on what has gone before.

 

The proof of the pudding is when the interface between truckies on the road and the enforcement agencies isn’t characterised by tickets being written for offences in one state for behaviour which would be perfectly legal just across the border. We can only dream!

NSW talking tough

Duncan Gay, NSW Roads Minister, was stating the bleeding obvious today when he talked about there being no tougher state than NSW when it comes to heavy vehicle enforcement and inspections. The statement comes in the wake of the ABC Four Corners program on Wednesday which focused around the Mona Vale crash last October to quite an extent.

 

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“We have a heavy vehicle inspection force in its own right in NSW, with more than 280 front line inspectors and investigators,” said Gay.
”They carry out more than 3 million screenings through checking stations and more than 300,000 intercepts and detailed inspections each year.
 This is the largest and most comprehensive enforcement and compliance regime in the country.”

 

He went on to list all of the facilities both fixed and mobile used by the Roads and Maritime Services in their pursuit of truck offences. The minister was also keen to point out the Cootes tanker involved in the Mona Vale incident was not under the NSW scheme.

 

“The tragedy led NSW to successfully convince the national transport and infrastructure committee known as SCOTI to undertake work to improve the maintenance regime for heavy vehicles,” said Gay. “I was pleased to take the reforms to SCOTI on behalf of NSW and secure agreement for: a review of the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme to be led by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator; to bring forward the National Transport Commission’s scheduled review of heavy vehicle inspection regimes; and to expedite consideration of the introduction of mandatory requirements for electronic stability control on all new heavy vehicle trailers carrying dangerous goods.”

 

The NSW Minister brought up the chain of responsibility rules and their effectiveness in tackling mass, dimension, loading, speeding and fatigue offences but would not be drawn to include maintenance into the scope of COR. His advice seems to be suggesting the inspection and enforcement regime is being effective in preventing maintenance issues.

Simon calls for extension of COR

In response to the Four Corners TV investigation into the trucking industry ATA Chairman, David Simon, is calling for trucking business directors and executives to be held accountable for truck maintenance in the same way they are liable to chain of responsibility prosecution over fatigue and speeding offences.

 

“In tough times, it is easy for business executives to cut back on maintenance spending in the belief that it won’t affect safety, for a while,” said Simon. “There are special road transport laws, called the chain of responsibility laws, that impose safety obligations on businesses, company directors and executives. They only apply to speed management, fatigue, vehicle mass, vehicle dimensions and load restraint. They don’t apply to maintenance.

 

“The ATA and its members have called on governments to extend the chain of responsibility concept to vehicle maintenance. This would compel businesses and executives to take reasonable steps to ensure that trucks are maintained properly; for example, by ensuring that maintenance staff have adequate budgets, resources and training.”

 

Simon also wants the Federal Government to get the Australian Transport Safety Board involved by spending an extra $4.3 million to create a database of coronial recommendations. He sees this as the first step to seeing the ATSB taking a role in investigating serious truck crashes.

 

“The ATSB is known for its expertise in transport safety investigation, and is currently responsible for investigating aviation, marine and some rail accidents. The ATSB needs to be able to apply its expertise and insights to serious truck crashes as well,” said Simon.

 

These words come as one of the trucking operations highlighted by the TV program, Blenners, has seen charges laid against four of its employees over alleged fatigue breaches. The other featured operation, Cootes, is still under investigation over the Mona Vale crash last October.

 

The response from Simon echoes his initial call for these reforms at last year’s ATA Technical and Maintenance back in October. Clearly, the analysis of the situation at the time drove the ATA to try and pre-empt the result of any investigations into maintenance regimes and they are hoping the government responses to any outcry following the recent reports will take this route.

All change for the NHVAS next week

The National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) comes under the umbrella of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) next Monday and trucking operators need to take note of changes which may effect them. The NHVR has posted a web page in which all of the main changes are outlined for the operator.

 

The scheme will now operate under one fee structure. Truck drivers operating under mass or maintenance management will need to have the accreditation certificate, proof of induction and an interception report book. The truck itself must display the relevant accreditation label.

 

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Operators in NSW and South Australia will now have to have current inspection certificates to add new vehicles to the scheme. Tasmania will have to begin affixing correct labels and source interception report books for the first time. The documentation required to be carried by drivers included in fatigue management schemes may change for drivers in some states.

 

The NHVR has made provisions for operators during the transition period with a letter being provided for those waiting for accreditation labels to be produced to cover up to a 21 day wait. The NHVR also sent out an email setting out the key provisions for stakeholders.

 

“In recognition of the implications for industry, transitional arrangements will be in place for the first six months,” said the email from NHVR. “The NHVR is advising transport enforcement agencies that their authorised officers should apply discretion where drivers are unable to produce the required NHVAS documentation when they are intercepted. This may include the issuing of a warning as opposed to an infringement.”

 

However the message does come with this warning, “If drivers are issued a warning and disregard it, they are likely to be subject to further enforcement action should they not comply with the HVNL requirements.”

 

Ministerial double team in March

Two major transport industry events in March will offer a chance to get a feel for the regulatory and legislative attitudes of government, both federally and from the states. Warren Truss, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development along with NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay are both booked in to make an appearance at the annual Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association Conference in Tamworth and the Australian Logistics Forum to be held at Randwick, Sydney. Read more

ATA joins Canberra Convoy for Cancer

This weekend’s upcoming Canberra Convoy for Cancer Families will feature the Australian Trucking Association’s Safety Truck, its travelling road safety exhibition. The convoy, on Sunday February 2, is expected to include 400 trucks and 120 bikes driving across Canberra. The destination is a free community festival with children’s rides and amusements, food stalls and music.

 

Last year’s Canberra Convoy for cancer Families raised just over $107,000. This year’s event runs from 11:30am to 4pm, and will feature live performances from Alex Gibson (The Voice Australia 2013) as well as Counterfeit Cash and Night Train. The vehicles involved in the convoy will also be on display, as will the ATA Safety Truck.

 

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“With a kid’s pedal car track, road safety apps, a colouring tent and animated videos, we have heaps of fun things to do, and you’ll get some important road safety tips too,” said ATA Corporate Relations Manager, Steve Power. “Many of our younger drivers just aren’t taught how to share the road safely with heavy vehicles. The Safety Truck is all about getting these driving tips out to everyone in the community, from children through to experienced drivers.

 

“We’re delighted to support the Canberra Convoy for Cancer Families, and we’ll do our part this Sunday to help the 2014 event beat the $107,000 raised by the 2013 convoy.”

 

Funds raised by the convoy will be donated to the ACT Eden Monaro’s Cancer Support Group, providing financial assistance tocancer patients within the ACT, Queanbeyan and surrounds. More information is available at the Canberra Convoy website or on Facebook.

 

The Convoy will depart from Copper Crescent in Beard at 10am. Recommended viewing points for the convoy include the pedestrian foot bridge over Parkes Way next to the Civic Pool and the large paddocks on either side of Flemington Road.