NTC chief tips periodic national truck inspections

By: Steve Skinner, Photography by: Steve Skinner

Paul Retter forecasts periodic inspections as an interim measure until there is sufficient data for a risk-based approach.

NTC chief tips periodic national truck inspections
NTC CEO Paul Retter believes periodic inspections will be introduced across Australia.


National Transport Commission (NTC) CEO Paul Retter has declared a preference for targeted, risk-based enforcement of heavy vehicle roadworthiness.

However, Retter says this approach could take years to develop at a national level and in the meantime he predicts transport ministers will opt for periodic inspections.

Retter was speaking at the Australian Trucking Association's (ATA) Technical and Maintenance Conference in Melbourne this week.

Yesterday ATN reported that Toll wanted an end to mandatory annual heavy vehicle inspections and a move toward a risk-based approach instead.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) are currently examining roadworthiness standards and have released two reports on their findings and potential reforms.

Retter says a draft regulatory impact statement (RIS) will be presented to transport ministers next Friday. The draft RIS will go out for public discussion in January and the final RIS will be presented next July.

He says the NHVR is keen to develop a risk-based targeted approach to compliance activities, but there is a long way to go in developing the required national database on operator performance and in getting consistency between states and territories on roadworthiness in general.

"There are eight different systems operating at the moment. This is a function of the states being responsible for their own roadworthiness systems," Retter says.

"As a result over time we've got different interpretations of standards, we've got different different procedures in terms of inspections and, quite frankly, it can be quite frustrating I know for industry where with an issue that might be found in a vehicle in Victoria it will be treated one way, it might well be treated a different way in South Australia from what happens in New South Wales. 

"We know that exists, I hear you've had the enforcement guys here yesterday and they discussed the fact we do have differences of interpretation and approach and indeed different sized pockets from which governments actually do their business. 

"And the end result is we’re getting different outcomes and inconsistency across the industry."

Retter says there are also differences of approach in how jurisdictions collect data on the condition of truck fleets.

"The reality is that if we actually had excellent intelligence…if we knew a lot about our fleet operators and the condition of the fleet we could actually be far more targeted, cost-effective in what we do," he says.

"If you were a good operator with good management of your maintenance systems and a regulator knew that, you could actually get far more selective about who you pull over and what you do. 

"At the moment we've got different approaches to what we collect, who holds it, it certainly isn't shared as much as it should be and as a result we take more of a blunt instrument approach to pulling people over as opposed to a more refined, targeted approach."

Retter stresses he is "second-guessing" what transport ministers might do in the near future, ahead of there being enough good information for a more targeted, risk-based approach, which could take "a number of years".

"If I was a minister…I would say the outcome would be some form of periodic inspection across Australia," he says.

See the December edition of ATN for extensive coverage of the Technical and Maintenance Conference. Click here to secure your copy now.

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