Service skips on the rise as tough times take hold

Increase in truck accidents blamed on poor vehicle maintenance, with claims operators are "pushing the edge of the envelope"

Service skips on the rise as tough times take hold
Service skips on the rise as tough times take hold

By Ruza Zivkusic | January 19, 2011

An increasing number of truck companies are skipping regular vehicle services to offset the impact of tough economic times, but neglect is having dangerous and costly consequences.

Melbourne-based Delta-V Experts, a company which investigates accidents, says the number of trucks that end up in crashes is skyrocketing and can be blamed on poor maintenance.

Managing Director Dr Shane Richardson says companies push the extra mile by putting off services, including running their trucks on bad brakes and bald tyres.

They also let their own workers do the technical work in order to save money on a mechanic, he adds.

"We have seen cases where brakes have been completely disconnected and trucks and trailers have been put back on the road where it’s just not roadworthy and should not be allowed," Richardson says.

"The problems are becoming progressively worse and more acute in bad financial times. The hierarchy of neglect starts off with probably your minor safety issues and then you go up to your major health and safety issues and maintenance issues.

"Instead of doing a major service every 100,000km, they’re putting it off and do it at every 150,000km.

"Or the tyres should have been replaced but could last another 20,000km because they still have a bit of meat on them – they’re just pushing the edge of the envelope all the time."

Victorian Transport Association (VTA) CEO Phil Lovel says the industry is facing its toughest time at the moment, with cost recovery, cost of compliance, driver shortages and pressure from clients pushing them over the edge.

"I’ve been around a long time and this is one of the most difficult times I have seen. It has started 12 months ago and it’s been getting worse," Lovel says.

"The cost of compliance and demand from customers are really getting difficult to handle, companies have been stressed out to their eyeballs.

"The evidence is there from VicRoads that there are a lot of trucks on the road that are unroadworhty," he adds.

"Annual roadworthiness won’t fix it because the truck can be unroadworthy the next day."

Lovel is calling for an increase in random inspections to make sure trucks maintain roadworthiness all year round.

While saying the industry is feeling the pinch at the moment, Lovel has hinted the carbon tax will exacerbate the situation. The trucking industry has been given two-year reprieve from the tax, which will begin on July 1.

It will apply to trucking on July 1, 2014 in the form of a reduction in the fuel tax credit of almost 7 cents a litre.

"As an industry we feel really stressed, and on top of all of this is the forthcoming carbon tax," he says.

Robinson’s Truck and Coach Maintenance owner Mal Robinson, in Wangaratta in northeast Victoria, says a truck breakdown is mostly linked to poor maintenance. He says many drivers are running on an empty fuel tank.

"There are no specific brands of trucks that break down – most of it is due to driver error or maintenance like not picking up on belts or fuel, as quite a few of them run out of it," Robinson says.

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