Truck safety report divides industry

RTA told to beef up on-road enforcement as division grows over how to improve heavy vehicle safety

Truck safety report divides industry
Truck safety report divides industry
By Brad Gardner

NSW is being told to beef up on-road enforcement activities following the release of a divisive report into heavy vehicle safety.

Launched in the aftermath of a fatal truck smash in 2004, Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat’s Improving Road Safety – Heavy Vehicles calls for greater use of speed cameras, better risk identification standards and covert tactics to expose speeding and registration breaches.

The report examines how well the Roads and Traffic Authority deters and detects offences and enforces regulations, and RTA Acting Chief Executive Michael Bushby concedes there is a "need to maximise detection".

But while the NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA NSW) claims a greater focus on speeding and unregistered vehicles will remove "rogue drivers" and "cowboy operators", the Transport Workers’ Union has rubbished the report.

Labelling the review "a fundamental failure", TWU Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon has criticised Achterstraat for not considering the role pay rates play in the heavy vehicle sector.

Sheldon says big-name clients should have been investigated because they use their economic influence to drive down pay rates, forcing drivers to speed or cut maintenance costs to try and make a living.

"This auditor has completely missed the mark when it comes to the disease," Sheldon tells ATN.

"It is dealing with the symptoms rather than the causes of why drivers breach road laws."

The TWU will pursue the issue, with Sheldon writing to Achterstraat demanding a meeting with him as soon as possible.

"This [review] belts the victims out on the road, not the perpetrators," he says.

Sheldon plans on taking drivers and businesses along to the meeting in the hope he can convince the auditor-general of the need to investigate clients and support a fixed payment system for drivers.

In his response to the recommendations, Bushby has pledged to review the RTA’s enforcement and sanctions practices but there are doubts whether the department can implement all of the recommendations.

The RTA has questioned the feasibility of having fixed speed cameras detect all speeding offences by December 2009, saying "there are technical and regulatory issues that need to be explored".

The RTA has also raised doubts over the recommendation for it to recognise all heavy vehicles on NSW roads regardless of their registration status.

Although it agreed to look at the feasibility of the recommendation, the RTA says "technical system capacity issues" have forced it to adopt a risk-based approach focussed on registration status.

Achterstraat launched the review after an unroadworthy and unregistered truck ploughed into 34 vehicles at Mooney Mooney, killing one woman and seriously injuring two people.

In releasing his report, Achterstraat noted that heavy vehicles make up around two percent of vehicles registered in NSW but are involved in 22 percent of crashes where someone is killed.

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