Senate committee sets homework for RMS

By: Rob McKay

Probe into truck licensing fraud response sees compliance director grilled

Senate committee sets homework for RMS
Glenn Sterle wants clarity on the RMS approach


Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) of New South Wales is working through a series of issues for a Senate inquiry focused on truck-driver licensing, including on whether its officers can ground incompetent drivers.

The senator Glenn Sterle-chaired Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry on ‘Aspects of road safety in Australia’ was sparked by an incident where visa-holding drivers with corruptly given licenses were unable to reverse or uncouple a B-double that could not enter a Sydney tunnel.

Sterle sought an explanation from the New South Wales roads authority as to why RMS officers at the scene, who were forced to reverse the combination themselves, had then let the drivers go.

RMS Compliance and Regulatory Services executive director Melinda Bailey pointed out that the driver at time had possessed valid Queensland licences, had six demerit points taken off his licence and had been fined $2,826.

But this cut no ice with Sterle or committee colleague senator Barry O'Sullivan and they declined to hear more details on RMS operations, such as screening lanes and its safety cam "which is second to none in Australia".

ATN is given to understand the relevant provision of the road transport legislation is section 52 of the Road Transport Act 2013.

An authorised person is someone who has been authorised by RMS for the purpose of this provision.

Roads and Maritime Services has authorised its heavy vehicle inspectors and their divisional enforcement managers.

The section reads:

52   Seizure of driver licences

(cf DL Act, s 24)

(1)  A police officer, or a person authorised in writing by the Authority (an authorised person), may, with no authority other than this section, seize an Australian driver licence or any article resembling an Australian driver licence if:

(a)  the licence or article is produced to the police officer or authorised person by another person who represents it to be the person’s driver licence, and

(b)  the police officer or authorised person reasonably suspects that the licence or article:

(i)  has been obtained in contravention of section 49 or a former corresponding provision, or

(ii)  is unlawfully in the possession of the person who produced it.

The Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2008 gives the Authority the right to cancel a licence if "the person does not have sufficient driving ability or knowledge of road law,

How strong that is as it relates to a Queensland licence remains be seen.

Bailey has pledged to return answers to the committee on whether the RMS staff had the authority to stop the offending driver, an issue, she says, that had never been raised with her before.

She confirmed there had been no liaison with the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) which regulates training organisations once it became plain there were issues with a registered training organisation (RTO) in the state.

She will also report on the issue of holes allegedly being cut in a cab floors as a toilets after having been furnished with a company name that Sterle would not make public.

He says the issue been brought up with him a number of times on his facebook page.

The issue divides industry observers, some of whom have reported it to ATN as a fact and others who say rumours of such a practice have been around for decades in Australia and internationally, including in Canada, have often been used to tar foreign drivers and that, if it was more than a myth, online photographic evidence would have gone viral before now.

The RMS is to also probe more evidence of fraudulent licencing provided to the committee and an update on state contracts with formerly troubled registered training organisation (RTO) called ACT, which Bailey says has shown "significant improvements" over three audits.

In earlier evidence, the committee heard of the RMS’s response to the 2013 assessor scandal, included mandatory in-cabin video and GPS technology and the separation of training and assessment.

"We have undertaken a further review of the competency based assessments scheme and a working group is also involved in implementing a training package for new assessors into the scheme," Bailey said.

"We are committed to working in partnership with scheme participants to mitigate the risk of misconduct by assessors to ensure that all are properly qualified to participate in the scheme."

While, the committee expressed doubt that the camera-based upgrades went far enough to capture trailer-related skills, she says further improvements were being examined.

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