Jacob Saulwick, 28 September 2015

The failure of Victorian and Queensland authorities to monitor dangerous heavy vehicles is creating huge risks across the country’s roads, exasperated NSW officials say.

The triple fatality at Menangle in 2012, when a Lennons truck killed Donald and Patricia Logan and their son Calvyn, and the grounding of the Cootes fleet in 2013, prompted a re-examination of the way in which heavy vehicles are monitored in NSW.

In response the number of trucks speeding in NSW has dropped by about 90 per cent, and the defect rate in trucks in NSW has halved.

But local authorities are increasingly frustrated by the refusal of interstate jurisdictions to adopt similar methods to those employed in NSW.

For instance, the linked Safe-T-Cam system that operates in NSW and South Australia enables Roads and Maritime Services to check vehicle speed, registration, and whether they have been passing through heavy vehicle checking stations. The system also enables them to inspect trucking fleets on a “risk-based” basis, rather than having to rely on random inspections.

But because there are no Safe-T-Cams in other eastern states, NSW authorities are unable to monitor the risks of truck drivers and fleets. This means they are unable to get a gauge on whether drivers are taking their mandated breaks.

“Drivers can travel from Melbourne to Albury and drive the five hours, write in their work diary they’re resting, and head straight through the first camera in NSW and we’ve got no way of knowing,” said Paul Endycott,  general manager of compliance operations at RMS.

“If there were a couple of cameras in Victoria, then we’d know, and we wouldn’t have Victorian drivers killing themselves in NSW because they fall asleep,” Mr Endycott said.

The Safe-T-Cam system can determine the speed at which trucks pass between 27 sites in NSW, though trucks are not fined for breaches.

But investigators use those speeding notices to increase inspections of those vehicles at checking stations, and to demand explanations from fleets.

Between January 2011 and January 2014, the number of heavy vehicles detected speeding by Safe-T-Cams in NSW dropped by about 95 per cent, from 53,000 to 5000.

“NSW is sick and tired of being the nation’s safety station for trucks,” said Roads Minister Duncan Gay.

“We are calling on our neighbours to lift their game in identifying and capturing defective and speeding trucks, fatigued drivers, overweight or poorly loaded trucks,” Mr Gay said.

At the heavy vehicle checking station at Marulan on the Hume Highway last week, driver Greg Fisher attested to the increased enforcement in NSW. Mr Fisher, whose vehicle had been stopped and was issued with two minor defect notices, said the culture had changed among management at his employer.

“They’d just hang the driver out, that’s what they used to do,” Mr Fisher said. “They’d give you a job and say go do it, and if you’re not going to do it 60,000 other guys would go and do it.”

For instance, Mr Fisher said he had been told he could not drive a job to Melbourne because he would not have had his mandated seven-hour break – that would not have happened three years ago.

Mr Endycott said the installation of just two or three Safe-T-Cam systems in Victoria would make a large difference.

“Then they can have access to 27 here in NSW to see what’s going on, but at this point in time they don’t know what’s coming at them and we don’t know what’s coming out of there,” he said.

The VicRoads director of regulatory services, Eric Henderson, said VicRoads took the issue of heavy vehicle safety “very seriously”. Safety officers regularly patrolled Victorian roads and conducted roadworthy inspections.

Extracted in full from the Sydney Morning Herald.