PSA: The lights might be on, but no­body is home

Big Rigs - - INDUSTRY OPINION - Troy Wright As­sis­tant Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Pub­lic Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion of NSW

THE sharp rise of deaths in­volv­ing heavy ve­hi­cles on the state’s roads can be at­trib­uted to the NSW Govern­ment’s de­ci­sion not to fill 34 va­cant Com­pli­ance Op­er­a­tion In­spec­tor (COI) po­si­tions in RMS, in­clud­ing the “re-pur­pos­ing” of seven COI po­si­tions in 2016 to non-front­line roles within the agency.

The 34 fewer Com­pli­ance Op­er­a­tion In­spec­tors through­out NSW mean en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties are dra­mat­i­cally re­duced ei­ther at ran­dom road­side in­spec­tion sites or the non-staffing of the state’s eight Heavy Ve­hi­cle Safety Sta­tions.

The Pub­lic Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion (PSA) is enor­mously con­cerned that this ex­poses all road users, in­clud­ing heavy ve­hi­cles driv­ers them­selves, to enor­mous risk.

Truck­ing com­pa­nies are fully aware of this lack of crit­i­cal over­sight.

They know very well their driv­ers are un­likely to be stopped to en­sure they hold a cur­rent li­cence, to check their ve­hi­cle is reg­is­tered and road­wor­thy, that the driver has taken the nec­es­sary rest breaks and not been speed­ing, and that the ve­hi­cle is not over­weight and the load cor­rectly re­strained.

The sce­nario created by this crit­i­cal lack of ex­pert over­sight is the stuff of night­mares: heavy ve­hi­cles up to 62.5 tonnes, and in some cases more, bar­relling down state and fed­eral high­ways at high speed in an un-road­wor­thy, un­se­cured con­di­tion driven by an un­der pres­sure fa­tigued driver.

Lit­tle won­der we have seen cat­a­strophic ac­ci­dents in our roads in just the first few weeks of 2018.

But without ex­pert over­sight and en­force­ment by heavy ve­hi­cle in­spec­tors, how are truck driv­ers to be aware of any po­ten­tial is­sues with their rigs?

The PSA has also been alerted to the fact a num­ber of Safe-T-Cam cam­eras are not work­ing through­out the state due to fund­ing cuts and which fur­ther re­duces de­tec­tion of fa­tigue and speed­ing.

Con­se­quently, once in­ter­cepted, the Com­pli­ance Op­er­a­tion In­spec­tor can­not iden­tify if the driver’s work di­ary is a true and ac­cu­rate record as Safe-T-Cam data which iden­ti­fies times and lo­ca­tions of the ve­hi­cle through­out the state are un­able to be ob­tained to cross ref­er­ence against the work di­ary.

With the non-filling of th­ese va­cant heavy ve­hi­cle in­spec­tor po­si­tions, some lo­ca­tions are drop­ping shifts, leav­ing sites un-manned or in some cases hav­ing in­spec­tors work in other re­gions to pick up the short­fall, thus leav­ing gi­ant holes for heavy ve­hi­cles to lit­er­ally drive through.

Fur­ther, non-com­ply­ing heavy ve­hi­cles are driv­ing through screen­ing lanes at Safety Sta­tions but due to lack of staff, are di­verted back onto the high­way to con­tinue their jour­ney; an­other ac­ci­dent po­ten­tially wait­ing to hap­pen.

The PSA’s great­est con­cern how­ever is the NSW Govern­ment is mov­ing to off­load this crit­i­cal community safety func­tion to the Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Regulator (NHVR) and wipe its hands of all re­spon­si­bil­ity for this facet of road safety.

The tran­si­tion to the NHVR has been shrouded in se­crecy and could mean a fur­ther re­duc­tion in over­sight with RMS cut­ting the cur­rent Com­pli­ance Op­er­a­tion Sec­tion to a bare min­i­mum in prepa­ra­tion for the move.

Soon it seems we will all be trav­el­ling on high­ways to hell, all thanks to the NSW Govern­ment.

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