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Defect-Risk link needs further investigation: NatRoad

But education key to safety, Clark says, as blitz figures emerge


More research is needed about the link between heavy vehicle accidents and mechanical maintenance, National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) CEO Warren Clark says, in the light of data from recent vehicle surveys.

The comments come in response questions from ATN regarding the results of Operation Shield and Operation Rolling Thunder, both collected and released by New South Wales government agency Road and Maritime Services.

A total of 1,448 notices were issued in the most recent Operation Shield, a week-long heavy vehicle inspection campaign conducted by the agency from February 11-17 – revealing an 86 per cent compliance rate among the vehicles checked.

A total of 10,302 units were inspected during the operation, with 95 weight breaches recorded and eight failing speed limiter checks – the worst enabling the truck to travel at 123 km/h.

The first Operation Shield, from December 11-17, in which 11,881 units were inspected, found 20 vehicles that failed speed limiter tests, the worst enabling a speed of 161 km/h.

There were 106 major defect notices issued at the time, 10 of which required the vehicle to be grounded, with 215 weight breaches, and 16 unlicensed driver and 16 unregistered vehicle notices published.

Operation Rolling Thunder, a one-day operation conducted on February 1 to focus on driver fatigue, speed and drug and alcohol use, revealed 88 per cent of the units inspected were fully compliant.

Clark says this level of compliance was broadly consistent with the levels detected in the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s National Roadworthiness Baseline Survey, published in 2014.

“In that survey, the mechanical condition of the vehicle and trailers was thoroughly examined… Of the vehicles inspected, 88% did not have a major non-conformity,” he adds.

“When comparing to the data from the US and Europe, this is a really favourable result for the Australian industry. For example, in the USA following a similar exercise, 21.5 per cent of vehicles were placed ‘out-of-service.’”

Despite this, Clark notes that the results were not a reason for complacency, saying the industry could not tolerate critical non-conformity in that space.

“We’d suggest that more research in this area is needed, and any relationship between non-conformity with vehicle standards and any spike in the incident levels should be pursued by Governments,” he says.

Other factors to consider

Nonetheless, Clark saysthat failing to comply with vehicle standards did not mean a vehicle was more likely to crash – pointing to the National Truck Accident Research Centre’s 2017 Major Accident Investigation Report.

The report, which considered incidents which took place in 2015, said that mechanical failures of vehicles were inconsequential when it came to the accident rate, with a crash incident level of 3.5 per cent.

“Of [the] fatal accidents, the driver of the car was found to be totally responsible for 93 per cent of the incidents,” the report said.  

Clark saysthat this showed that it was not always heavy vehicle drivers that needed to be targeted.

“Blitz enforcement of the law is not of itself enough to solve the issue of increased road fatalities,” he argues.

“The issue is that resources should also be allocated to education, to enforcing obligations along the chain of responsibility and to measures that focus on causative issues, such as the behaviour of car and light vehicle drivers.”


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