Extend COR to truck maintenance: David Simon

ATA chairman wants chain of responsibility extended to truck maintenance and electronic stability control mandated for some dangerous goods vehicles

Extend COR to truck maintenance: David Simon
Extend COR to truck maintenance: David Simon

October 28, 2013

The boss of Australia’s peak trucking lobby group wants chain of responsibility laws extended to truck maintenance and for electronic stability control (ESC) to be mandated for some dangerous goods vehicles.

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Chairman David Simon (pictured) used his address at the opening of this year’s Technical and Maintenance Conference to push regulatory changes to improve vehicle maintenance and safety standards in the industry.

Simon says recent events, which have included the Cootes Transport tanker crash and heavy vehicle enforcement operations that have uncovered serious defects, show some businesses lack a commitment to maintenance and safety.

"In tough times, it is easy for executives who are not on the tools to tweak a few numbers in a spreadsheet and cut back on maintenance in the belief it won’t matter," Simon says.

"My personal view is that we should extend CoR to vehicle maintenance. This would compel businesses and their senior managers to take reasonable steps to make sure you can do your jobs properly, for example, by ensuring you have adequate budgets, resources and training."

Chain of responsibility currently applies to speed, driver fatigue, vehicle mass, vehicle dimensions and load restraint. The regime means all parties involved in the supply chain can be held accountable if their actions contribute to a breach.

Along with reiterating the ATA’s support for a review of the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS), Simon gave his partial support to a 2011 coronial recommendation for the New South Wales Government to mandate ESC for all dangerous goods trucks.

"In my view, it would not be necessary to impose this requirement on all vehicles carrying dangerous goods. It should not, for example, apply to trucks carrying domestic cleaning products in retail packaging as part of a larger load," he says.

"We should, however, urgently look at applying it to trucks carrying bulk loads of flammable or combustible liquids, explosives and radioactive substances."

During his speech, Simon argued in favour of the the trucking industry adopting the accident investigation system used for plane accidents.

"One of the reasons air travel is so safe is its accident investigation system. In Australia, the job is done by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which also looks at marine and rail accidents," he says.

"The ATSB looks beyond the immediate causes of accidents to the organisational and management issues that allow them to happen. When it does issue recommendations, it pushes them until it gets an adequate response. Its recommendations and the responses are all public and easy to find."

Simon says the process gives businesses and government agencies a strong incentive to take the ATSB’s recommendations seriously.

"I believe we need to move to a similar system. As the first step, governments need to establish a national database of coronial recommendations about road safety, together with the responses and updates about the recommendations that have not been followed up," he says.

"The database would need to be accessible to everyone: safety investigators, the industry, the media and the public.

"This new system would not require governments and the industry to follow every coroner’s recommendation. But it would make sure these recommendations were considered seriously."

Simon believes a long-term goal should involve governments, the industry, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and the ATSB looking at establishing a national ‘no blame’ accident investigation capacity for fatal truck crashes similar to the approach taken for aviation, marine and rail accidents.

"It’s a big step, but we would learn more from each fatal truck crash than we do now. And there would be more action to stop future accidents from happening," he says.

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