A speech by NSW Transport Minister, Duncan Gay, suggests the road to a new truck roadworthiness regime may not be as clearcut as hoped. Speaking at this week’s Australian Logistics Council Safety Summit, Minister Gay made it clear New South Wales are making a stand on some contentious issues.
The National Transport Commission and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator are currently going through the process of developing a new national approach to roadworthiness in the trucking industry. This initiative was kickstarted by the issues raised by the Mona Vale fuel tanker crash, back in 2013.
One of the contentious issues between some of the states is a requirement for annual inspections of all heavy vehicles on our roads, in the face of genuinely effective accreditation schemes. The NTC and NHVR have been promoting the idea of a risk based approach to vehicle inspections, where the trucks most likely to have issues are identified and singled out for inspection. This could replace an annual requirement.
“Immediately after the Mona Vale crash, we discovered alarming deficiencies in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme,” said Gay, speaking to the Safety Summit. “As the Minister responsible for road safety in this state, with the wider community fast losing confidence in the condition of the trucking fleet, I had no choice, but to act decisively. It was the road transport industry’s support which was so important at the time. Not only did we act quickly to roll out a large scale compliance operation, but I also decided to elevate these issues to the national level.”
In his speech, Gay, took care to outline NSW’s credentials as a national leader in truck industry regulation, cutting its own path to improved truck safety outcomes.
“As compliance gets tighter, if we turn the wick down, we’ve got to make sure our interactions with the industry gets better,” said Gay. “Defect brakes on trucks being surveyed in Port Botany have dropped. On the subject of brake defects, contrary to popular myth, our focus is not on cracked tail lights or mudguards, although these can sometimes flag bigger maintenance issues, but rather faults with brakes, steering and suspension.
“Last year we asked RMS to hold a series of information sessions, talking to workshop and vehicle manufacturers about what we expected in brake testing. In layman’s terms, any brakes showing an imbalance greater than 30 per cent will be defected.”
However, it was comments about any revamped accreditation regime which shows NSW reverting to its default stance of intransigence in the national arena.
“Something we will not budge on is the need for annual truck inspections,” said Gay. “I can understand the argument for, what’s called, a risk based approach to heavy vehicle maintenance, but such a system only works if we have the manpower and technology and facilities to identify and capture the risk in the first place.
“As already highlighted in NSW, we lead the nation in this respect. It’s not an either/or proposition, annual inspections will carry on as will roadside compliance operations. The removal of annual truck inspections will also fail the ‘pub test’.
“If it’s compulsory to have an annual rego check on a six year old Toyota Yaris, at 1.5 tonne, how can one legitimately have a B-double operating at 68 tonnes being exempt from such a requirement. In my travels across the state I come across many operators who like the peace of mind provided by annual inspections.”