Enforcement essential to catch 'cowboys'

Governments must continue roadside heavy vehicle enforcement to catch "cowboy" operators, specialist weight compliance company says

By Brad Gardner | July 28, 2010

Governments should look at other means of ensuring compliance with vehicle mass management laws instead of relying on electronic monitoring of trucks, a specialist weight compliance company says.

Elphinstone Weighing Systems has cautioned jurisdictions against imposing GPS tracking on the trucking industry following the release of a discussion paper that found some were keen to use the method instead of roadside enforcement.

Elphinstone Managing Director Graeme Elphinstone says governments will only increase the costs of honest operators trying to do the right thing, while dodgy companies will be able to overload because there will be fewer officers on the road.

"As I see it there are only two ways to successfully stop overloading gross and axle weights. The first is not paying for overloads," Elphinstone says.

"This method has worked for 35 years in the Tasmanian woodchip industry. Operators soon learn to use a good quality weighing system that is properly maintained.

"The other way is to have intensified on-road enforcement. This equates to more inspectors on the road to catch the ‘cowboys’."

Elphinstone says governments must also work toward uniform loading laws.

"As it is at the moment there are so many different rules to abide by that it becomes confusing for the manufacturer, the operator and the law enforcement officers," he says.

Elphinstone made the comments in his response to a National Transport Commission discussion paper on an on-board mass technology framework.

The NTC wants governments to support a voluntary on-board scheme, but says some jurisdictions want a compulsory scheme because the number of trucks on the road has made roadside enforcement practices "economically less viable".

"Enforcement agencies have reported that the deterrent posed by roadside enforcement has progressively diminished, as enforcement agencies struggle to keep pace with the growing freight task," the NTC paper says.

"Electronic monitoring has been proposed by some as a more cost effective means for regulators to track compliance levels."

But while regulators have "expressed enthusiasm" for mandatory monitoring to improve the detection of non-compliant vehicles, the NTC says there is no evidence to justify a heavy-handed approach.

"The NTC has not yet been able to obtain substantial evidence that there is any major problem with mass compliance levels across the heavy vehicle fleet," it says.

According to the NTC, mandatory on-board mass management systems will cost between $5000 and $12,000 for a semi-trailer and $7500 and $17,000 for a B-double.

Following industry feedback to the discussion paper, the NTC will consult stakeholders before submitting a policy proposal to the Australian Transport Council. The ATC brings together the nation’s transport ministers and will vote on the policy proposal.

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