RMS confirms block to halting incompetent truck drivers
No legal powers to suspend truck driver’s licence on the spot, Senate committee told
The New South Wales road authority has told a Senate committee that there are no powers in the state to suspend the licences of wrongly accredited truck drivers.
Questions were raised in a February hearing by the Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee in its Inquiry into Aspects of Road Safety and taken on notice.
The inquiry was sparked by an incident involving a visa-holding driver who had been provided a Queensland licence by what was later found to be a corrupt assessor.
The drivers had been unable to back a combination on Sydney’s M5 freeway and the Transport Management Centre’s Traffic Emergency Patrol staff had to reverse the vehicle from the entrance to a tunnel it could not enter.
Given the driver’s inability was a sign of his incompetence to be in charge of a heavy vehicle, committee chairman Senator Glenn Sterle sought to find out if, in the interests of safety, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) officers have the authority to "challenge the competency of a driver in such circumstances and not allow the driver to continue to drive".
RMS was also asked if it would consider developing a policy to encourage RMS officers to work with the Police in these circumstances in order to stop a driver from driving, or seek to gain the authority to be able to recommend to the Police that a driver in these circumstances not be allowed to continue to drive.
It has since advised that its officers did not have the power to prevent drivers from continuing their journey and that the limits of RMS power were six demerit points, fines of $630 and $2,196 for failure to obey low clearance sign and failure to be on permitted route respectively and the suspension in NSW of the combination for three months.
It later imposed the maximum three month suspension of visiting driver privileges on the driver.
"Roads and Maritime has no power to suspend a licence issued by an authority in another State and is limited to regulating its own licensees in NSW (the driver in this case held a Queensland licence)," its reply reads.
On the cooperation question, the RMS appears not to have answered the point directly but did point out that laws would need to change in its and police powers were to be strengthened in such situations.
"Police were in control of the site and the driver," RMS states.
"Currently, NSW Police may immediately suspend a driver licence at a roadside scene for certain offences.
"Those offences are in the nature of alcohol/drug driving, serious crime, or dangerous speeding.
"The law does not currently provide for immediate roadside licence suspensions by Police for offences such as those that occurred on this occasion. In order for Roads and Maritime or Police to be able to immediately suspend at the roadside for heavy vehicle or road rules offences of this nature, legislative amendment would be required and would be led by Transport for NSW in consultation with NSW Police."
Asked whether RMS officers or agents might go undercover to expose licensing rorts, the RMS says the Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment (HVCBA) Accreditation Agreement would need to be amended to allow this.
"Roads and Maritime currently does conduct unannounced Training Quality Reviews as a quality assurance process to ensure that training and assessment is conducted in accordance with requirements.
"A Training Quality Review may be scheduled based on an analysis of data from the Heavy Vehicle On-Line Reporting System (HVCORS).
"These can be conducted by Roads and Maritime at either the commencement or conclusion of a Final Competency Assessment, and focusses on both the assessor’s completion of administrative and procedural requirements, and the applicant’s level of competence."
RMS provided details on HVBCA assessments since 2013 showing that, in the four years to 2016, they had increased from 9,457 to 17,597 while the pass rates had fallen from 98 per cent to 92 per cent.
"While Roads and Maritime does not have any automated tool to detect RTOs or assessors with high pass rates, Roads and Maritime conducts industry analysis to identify potential high risk accredited RTOs and assessors," it says.
"In such analysis, Roads and Maritime considers a high pass rate, combined with a high volume of assessments, a high risk behaviour.
"Apart from industry analysis, the assessment volume and pass rate analysis forms a part of Preliminary Risk Assessments prepared for audits to flag potential high risk assessors in an RTO that is scheduled to be audited.
"Roads and Maritime has made data analysis a priority, and we continue to develop tools, systems and advanced analytics to increasingly identify high risk RTOs and assessors more efficiently."
On the question of holes being cut in truck floors as dunnies, the RMS says its inspectors "have not detected any evidence of holes in the floors of heavy vehicles so that drivers do not have to stop to go to the toilet in two-up operations".