RTA to look at safety levy for trucking

NSW Government may impose new conditions on trucking industry, including a safety levy to fund training and accreditation

RTA to look at safety levy for trucking
RTA to look at safety levy for trucking
By Brad Gardner | September 3, 2009

The NSW Government may impose new conditions on the trucking industry, including a safety levy to fund training and accreditation initiatives to boost road safety.

Minister for Police Tony Kelly and Roads Minister Michael Daley yesterday unveiled the Government’s plan to cut the road toll based on the outcome of a road safety roundtable convened earlier this year.

Along with possible changes to occupational health and safety laws and an increase in on-road enforcement, the Government has tasked the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) to look at introducing a five-star rating system for the trucking industry.

The scheme is advocated by trucking magnate Ron Finemore and the Transport Workers Union and rates a company based on its approach to safety.

Finemore says companies with a high rating should be granted access to funds for accreditation and training, with the money coming from an industry-wide levy.

"I think we need to seriously consider that sort of thing," he told a parliamentary committee earlier this year.

"At a certain star level you are trusted with the responsibility and get some funds to invest in training people."

The TWU has welcomed the Government’s proposal, saying it will recognise and reward responsible trucking operators.

"Under the system, a company with good safety record, proper training, union representation and paying safe rates would be able to get formal government accreditation and access to special schemes under the program," NSW TWU Secretary Wayne Forno says.

According to Finemore, many trucking operators are currently reluctant to invest in training due to a lack of resources and concern over whether the employee will stay with the business.

The RTA has also been ordered to look at altering OHS laws to extend them to the vehicle cab.

"The vehicles for those who drive professionally must be viewed as a place of work and should be as safe as possible," the roundtable told the Government.

In response, the roads department will look at the viability of mandating safety features such as electronic stability control for commercial and heavy vehicles.

This will coincide with a review of the demerit points for work diary offences after the roundtable criticised fatigue management enforcement practices.

But while the RTA will look at possible solutions, a spokeswoman for Daley has ruled out any changes to the controversial demerit points policy which has stripped the court’s of the power to rule on points.

In NSW, magistrates can waive financial penalties but demerit points are issued regardless of a court’s decision.

On-road enforcement will also be beefed up, with the Government agreeing to deploy 48 more highway patrol officers at nine known black spots.

Daley says the Government will also look at slapping heavier sanctions on repeat offenders, while new technology will be trialled to curb speeding.

"We are trialling speed-limiting technology that can restrict a vehicle from exceeding the set speed limit," he says

Police will also look at using automatic number plate recognition to catch unregistered vehicles and unlicensed drivers.

In announcing the recommendations, Kelly told the NSW Parliament the Government would also look at putting road safety messages on speeding notices and financing tailor-made advertising campaigns for specific groups.

"The Government will be paying particular attention to ways in which it can get speeding drivers to change their behaviour," Kelly says.

"I advise a small number of people who do not heed the message that they will be caught."

Following the roundtable's recommendations, the NSW Centre for Road Safety will develop an education campaign to inform motorists about sharing the road with heavy vehicles.

The roundtable brought together groups such as the NRMA, NSW Police and NSW Health and was established by Daley and Kelly earlier this year in response to a spike in the road toll.

The NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association, which refers to itself as the State’s peak trucking lobby, was denied a seat a the table.

The Government has not given a date for the introduction of the reforms, but says it is committed to working with stakeholders to improve road safety

"We're not afraid of tackling the tough issues but we will take the time to make sure our new strategies are workable on the ground," Daley says.

The State’s road toll this year is 312—65 more deaths based on this time last year.

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