All the trucking industry is asking for is a simple national compliance and enforcement policy. Whether we get that or not is often the subject of heated discussions.
Every year representatives of those stopping our trucks at the side of the road and inspecting them for compliance have to run the gauntlet and face up to questions from the floor at the TMC Conference held in Melbourne. This year saw the early signs of the changing nature of the relationship between poacher and game keeper.
“We apply a very simple national compliance and enforcement policy,” says Paul Simionato, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator Director for Southern Region Operations. “We are risk-based and intelligence-led and our main focus is always education on the side of the road. That’s the philosophy we have adopted and we will continue to adopt that as part of the NHVR enforcement policy.
“At the moment we are gathering data from all over Southern Australia and we are getting better at it. Now, we are targeting specific operators, which is increasing a lot of productivity. It means less time spent at the side of the road for our compliance officers. We have a number of ways of doing it at the moment and are rolling out a mobile solution.”
The NHVR are talking about the data being available to all of their officers in each state. If a truck has been dealt with in one state it will not be pulled over again in another state. The NHVR see that as a waste of their time and of the operators.
In South Australia, NHVR is finding a level of compliance around 80 per cent and picking up mainly mechanical problems and fatigue issues, with low levels of mass and registration offences. In Tasmania, which doesn’t have roadside weigh-bridges the approach has been much more targeted and a compliance rate of 66 percent has been found. This is due to inspector only checking operators who are already under suspicion.
“We do risk-based profiling of operators, but we don’t do as many prosecutions as we used to,” says Russell Greenland, who was at the time Manager of Melbourne Metropolitan Region for VicRoads, but is now part of the NHVR. “But, we do visit companies and use things like the Confidential Reporting Line, using information from that to look at operators. Our view is not to concentrate so much on what they have done in the past, but when we visit, we find they have no systems in place and they are not managing what they do very well at all.
“Our view is we want to work with them so they become a functioning company able to make money and employ people. Of all of those operators we have visited in the last two years, I can count on one hand the ones we actually put improvement notices on and gone down a formal process.
“Most of the people we deal with actually put action plans in place and really looked at what they did with their business. A number of those operators have put up their hands to help other operators.”
One particular operation, Northern Carriers is singled out by Russell for mention because the company has gone above and beyond in what it has done to improve compliance and help others in doing so.
Although overall compliance for the whole vehicle is the aim, Russell says inspectors have been coming across and increasing number of drawbar issues in the recent times. The inspection regime which many operators use is not being reflected in what is being seen during inspections at the roadside.
Load restraint has always been a thorny issue but Russell explains the inspectors are having to get more technical in understanding and regulating load restraint behaviour. Again the inspectors are going down a more educational route talking to operators and their staff at depots to help them become more compliant to the rules, if and when they are stopped by the side of the road.