We need better technology to beat Safe-T-Cam dodgers: RTA

RTA says new technology needed to beat Safe-T-Cam dodgers, as efforts continue to catch those fiddling with speed limiters

We need better technology to beat Safe-T-Cam dodgers: RTA
We need better technology to beat Safe-T-Cam dodgers: RTA
By Brad Gardner | June 24, 2010

The NSW roads department says it needs to adopt new solutions to stop trucking operators dodging Safe-T-Cam detection.

During his address to an inquiry into heavy vehicle safety, Dr Dr Soames Job of the Roads and Traffic Authority claimed trucks occasionally organise into a single file metres apart to avoid having their number plates detected.

Job says the practice is known as "shepherding" and the vehicles are so close that the front number plate of the lead truck is only visible to the camera.

"We are very much aware of it and it occasionally happens. However, there is not a great deal a safety camera per se can do about it," he says.

"If we examine for longer-term solutions…there are ways in which you can electronically detect a vehicle without any visual detection of the number plate. The way forward for some of this enforcement is to involve those kinds of detections of vehicles."

NSW MP Daryl Maguire suggested using two sets of ground mounted cameras to capture the number plates of the vehicles travelling behind the lead truck.

But Jobs says it is not possible.

"I think it would be difficult to mount the cameras in a manner that meant we could detect the number plates of vehicles shepherding. When they are shepherding they are very close together, a matter of just a few metres," he says.

"So, I think there is almost no angle where you could successfully do that from an automated detection point of view."

However, Job says the RTA is already working hard to prevent truck drivers from fiddling with speed limiters.

He says a number of heavy vehicles have devices to deactivate limiters, while some drivers change the gearing in vehicles to make it believe it is doing 100km/h.

"The other thing is an electronic device called the ‘whizzer’, which can be switched on and off. The difficulty is that that is a tiny object that could be planted almost anywhere on a very large truck, so to detect it at heavy vehicle checking stations would be very difficult," Job says.

He told the inquiry the RTA has introduced a provision that penalises the driver and the trucking company if a vehicles is caught doing 115km/h on a slope of road that cannot justify the speed.

"It is automatically the case that you are guilty of this offence because the vehicle was caught at 115km/h or more, which means the speed limiter was not working at the time. You can go and play with it all you like, but that offence still applies," Job says.

NSW MP George Souris says he is overtaken "everytime" he travels up a hill on the F3 by a truck exceeding 100km/h.

Job says the RTA is working with police to stamp the practice out.

"Indeed, we do catch a number of vehicles under these provisions where the slope of the road means they cannot get away with it. The penalties for those offences are very high for the operator," he says.

Introduced to reduce speed and fatigue in the trucking industry, Safe-T-Cam detects a number plate to determine if the truck driver is breaching the speed limit or regulations on driving hours.

The RTA says the cameras also detect unregistered vehicles and trucks that have tried to avoid Safe-T-Cam.

According to the RTA, there are 24 Safe-T-Cam sites across NSW mounted on gantries and bridges on major roads.

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