NSW refuses to let go of 'three strikes' policy

National regulations hit a snag as NSW refuses to give up its heavy vehicle 'three strikes' policy

NSW refuses to let go of 'three strikes' policy
NSW refuses to let go of 'three strikes' policy
By Brad Gardner | March 23, 2011

NSW is fighting a push to scrap its heavy vehicle ‘three strikes’ policy under national truck regulations despite claims there is no proof it works.

An expert panel established to resolve cross-border regulator inconsistencies has recommended against keeping the NSW scheme when national laws are introduced in 2013.

Unlike other states, NSW suspends a truck’s registration for 28 days if it is caught exceeding the speed limit by 15km/h three times in a three-year period.

"The panel has concluded that there is insufficient empirical data to justify the policy’s inclusion in national law," the National Transport Commission says in its Heavy Vehicle National Law Draft Regulatory Impact Statement released late last month.

The panel rejected NSW claims that less than 15 percent of vehicles that received a first strike went on to receive a second. According to NSW, less than 3.5 percent of vehicles receive a third strike.

"A lack of comparative data and multiple policy variables makes it difficult to establish the success or otherwise of the policy," the NTC says.

The panel believes demerit points and warnings might have been equally effective in reducing the rate of speeding trucks.

"It is arguable that chain of responsibility provisions mirror the intent of ‘three strikes’. The expert panel recommends that ‘three strikes’ not be included in the national law," the NTC says.

Victoria and South Australia scrapped similar policies, and the NTC says the latter’s experience suggests enforcement was problematic because a vehicle’s information was stored on a database separate to the driver.

"Tracking and correlating data has led to delays in identifying vehicles and prosecution, thereby limiting the policy’s overall effectiveness," the NTC says.

Trucking operators have in the past criticised the scheme, complaining that the Road and Traffic Authority’s (RTA) focus on de-registering a vehicle penalises a company rather than the offending employee.

The department insists the ‘three strikes’ policy is a key component of its heavy vehicle enforcement regime.

NSW is also standing by its decision to allow RTA officers to detain defective vehicles.

The NTC says the expert panel wants the measure abolished in favour of allowing officers to stop a vehicle until a breach is rectified, but not beyond that. The panel claims the NSW policy might actually restrain trade.

Like its ‘three strikes’ policy, NSW claims the ability to detain vehicles promotes road safety and should be part of national regulations.

"However, no empirical evidence has been presented to date that proves enhanced safety outcomes as a direct result of the power," the NTC says.

"Given the sheer size of some heavy vehicle combinations, the very act of detaining the vehicle might compromise safety as there may be limited availability of places where it may be safely stowed."

The states and territories agreed in 2009 to introduce national regulations by 2013. NTC CEO Nick Dimopoulos says a single set of laws will save $12.4 billion over 20 years.

"The proposed law will streamline requirements for interstate operators and allow them to focus on growing their business and improving safety, not filling in forms," he says.

A national regulator will oversee the system and will be based in Queensland with offices throughout Australia. All jurisdictions will be responsible for passing similar laws to ensure national uniformity.

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