Eastern states conduct 'largest ever' truck blitz

NSW crashes prompt united response from state road authorities and police

Eastern states conduct 'largest ever' truck blitz
Assistant commissioner Michael Corboy, left, addresses the media about the blitz in a police video in the company of Roger Weeks


The spate of truck crashes in New South Wales has seen mainland eastern states and territories including South Australia engage in Operation Rolling Thunder.

The blitz, coordinated  by NSW Police, involves NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and the Victorian, Queensland, ACT, and South Australian police forces in what is described as "Australia’s largest ever heavy vehicle compliance operation".

The operation that began at 6am, is "in direct response" to a two-day period of January 15-16, when three unrelated heavy vehicle crashes in NSW, at Jackadgery, Cooranbong and Brocklehurst, resulted five deaths.

NSW Police, consisting of more than 300 Highway Patrol and General Duties officers from metropolitan and regional areas, alongside 150 RMS inspectors are currently conducting inspections of heavy vehicles at various locations in NSW.

Queensland, Victorian, ACT, and South Australian police are conducting simultaneous operations "to ensure all heavy vehicles entering and leaving NSW are stopped, thoroughly inspected and drivers tested for drugs and alcohol".

The operation, designed to target known non-compliance hot-spots and areas found to be subject to dangerous behaviours or risk, will continue throughout the day.

The commander of NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, assistant commissioner Michael Corboy, says the operation presents an opportunity for police and other agencies to work together to ensure the entire trucking industry is operating safely.

"This operation is in direct response to three fatal truck crashes in the course of two days earlier this year that cost the lives of five people," Corboy says.

"We simply cannot not stand by and accept that dangerous trucks are on our roads and are causing people to die.

"NSW carries the bulk of the nation’s freight and we need to ensure that all of the trucks coming and going from the state are safe and compliant, and that truck drivers are not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"Today’s operation will test the entire heavy-vehicle industry in NSW and across other states. 

"We will review results from the operation and stop any trucks, drivers, owners or operators who can’t comply with safety standards and road rules, to ensure all dangerous trucks are removed from our roads."

RMS director of compliance Roger Weeks says this is one of the largest operations jointly conducted by Roads and Maritime and NSW Police.

"Last year, more than half a million heavy vehicle units were inspected and we will continue to work closely with NSW Police to target and remove unsafe vehicles from NSW roads," Weeks continues.

"NSW has the most comprehensive heavy vehicle safety and compliance system in the country and heavy vehicle drivers who ignore the law risk losing their licence and incurring heavy fines."

In a police video statement, Corboy reveals that planning for Operation Rolling Thunder and liaison with other state police forces began on the day of the second crash.

All major entry points to NSW and 14 spots in the Sydney basin are involved, as are all checking stations in the state, while roving crews on major highways are also operating.

"The reputable heavy vehicle companies have nothing to fear from this operation," Corboy says.

"We look at the . . . drivers, we look at the quality of the trucks, and the roadworthiness of the trucks, and we also look at the systems involved – fatigue management and load management and all the other things that go into a reputable company."

For Weeks, the focus is fatigue, speed, roadworthiness, and drug and alcohol testing.

"For those cowboy truckies, for those dishonest companies, for those parties in the supply chain who are placing unreasonable demands on the trucking industry, you’re in our sights," he said mid-morning.

"For those reputable trucking companies, for those professional truck drivers who do the right thing on our roads every day, you have nothing to worry about.

"This morning, already, we have inspected 500 trucks. We’ve found two major defects, we’ve found seven overloaded trucks. This is not a good start to the day.

"But, pleasingly, we have also found trucks that are fully compliant and are safe."

Weeks also emphasised a safety message to the wider community to take extra care around trucks due to the differing dynamics between trucks and cars.

He says feedback from reputable operators and professional drivers is "they want the ratbag element out of the industry".

He reveals that RMS issued directions to ground 29 drivers because of "critical fatigue breaches" in January alone.

"That is unacceptable behaviour by the driver, by the company and by anyone else in the supply chain that is placing unreasonable pressure on the truckies

"The worse thing we have seen is the critical fatigue of a driver intercepted near Jones Island up near Taree.

"This driver was almost asleep at the wheel.

"Our inspectors were unable to interview him effectively because he was continuously drooping his head, slurring his words.

"We called the police and they escorted that driver to a motel."

Report updated at 1pm.


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