The survey has been done and the results are in, is this the true state of trucks? The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has released the first of what is expected to be a series of snapshots on the condition of the truck fleet on our roads from the National Roadworthiness Baseline Survey. The first report is an overview of the fleet and its basic condition, plus some other basic data on the trucks on the highways.
This new mountain of data – over six million data points – on our trucks was compiled during the heavy vehicle health check, which took place late last year. Over seven thousand vehicles were stopped and examined by 364 specifically and centrally trained inspectors on the roadside and in depot visits at 168 different inspection sites. Using the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual as a guide, non-conformities were identified and recorded. They were ranked as being either minor, major or major (grounded).
The top ranked non-conformity was in the brake department, followed by steering and suspension and then engine driveline and exhausts. Trailers’ brakes came in at 11 per cent of non-conformities plus lower figures for suspension and couplings.
“Our conclusion is the fleet is, generally, safe,” said Daniel Elkins, NHVR Manager – Safety. “Of those inspected, 88 per cent did not have a major non-conformity and 98.7 per cent were able to continue their journey. We then went and looked at some international, studies and found two comparative studies in Europe and America. The major non-conformity rate is slightly better than that of Europe (22.7 per cent in Australia and 27.4 per cent in Europe).”
Looking at the rate of major non-conformities, the best performing vehicles were buses (two per cent) and special purpose vehicles (three per cent). Among trucks on the road, B-double prime movers came out at eight per cent and road trains at 10. Not quite so well performing were semis at 14 per cent and rigids at 13.
The worst performing vehicles were trailers being pulled by a rigid at 21 per cent, single trailers were at 14 per cent, road train trailers at 11 and the best performers were B-double sets at nine per cent major non-conformities.
One of the interesting pieces of data to arise from the findings is the actual age of trucks on the road. Rego data tells us the average age of trucks on the road is 14 years. However, in this statistically significant survey the average ages of the vehicles stopped ranged from 9.9 years in rigids to 5.2 years in B-double prime movers. Thus suggests many of the older vehicles registered rarely venture out onto the highway.
When considering age, it was also a good indicator of the non-conformity rate with new trucks under two years old only showing major non-conformity at one per cent, while the comparative figure for trucks over 13 years old was approaching 12 per cent.
The survey found one in eight trucks were participating in a maintenance scheme. Those in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme or Trucksafe only had a non-conformity rate of nine per cent, but those outside the scheme were at 13 per cent.
HVIA Questions Roller-Brake Testing
According to the Heavy Vehicle Industry Association (HVIA), the NHVR baseline report may overstate non-conforming brake systems, particularly for lightly laden trailers fitted with advanced braking technologies that incorporate a load-sensing function.
Brett Wright, HVIA CEO, responded to the release of the survey with some reservations.
“HVIA welcomes the publication of the data,” said Wright. “The results of the survey confirm the rising level of non-conformity as vehicles age, the importance of braking performance as a key safety issue, and the importance of good maintenance practices on maintaining the safety of the fleet. Accruing and utilising accurate data is crucial to determining the effectiveness of enforcement strategies and their impact on the safety status of the heavy-vehicle fleet.
“HVIA and other industry groups are concerned that the current methodology for roller-brake testing has overstated the non-conformances. Particularly for lightly laden trailers fitted with advanced braking technologies that incorporate a load sensing function. We urge the Regulator to continue discussing the roller brake testing methodology with industry to resolve these issues.”
WA Not Included
“It was disappointing that Western Australia did not participate in the survey,” said NatRoad CEO, Warren Clark, while welcoming the report. “This country’s regulation must proceed on a nationally consistent basis founded on nationally gathered evidence. Having the Northern Territory and Western Australia outside of the nationally consistent Heavy Vehicle National Law, as well as differences between states and territories in the implementation of that law is not a model for the 21st century.
“Any changes to the heavy-vehicle roadworthiness system must lead to uniform Australia-wide roadworthiness rules and enforcement that are underpinned by a risk-based approach. The NHVR is currently moving towards that outcome. At present, some states require every truck to be inspected each year, regardless of their risk profile; other states do not. Changing this diverse regulatory approach is being properly and diligently addressed by the NHVR with the survey as essential foundational research.”