Rather than a big­ger crack­down on the truck­ing fleet, the Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor reck­ons its cur­rent road­wor­thi­ness sur­vey might ac­tu­ally lead to less roadside dra­mas for truck­ies. Steve Skin­ner re­ports

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THE NA­TIONAL truck­ing reg­u­la­tor says its cur­rent road­wor­thi­ness sur­vey could find that the Aus­tralian truck fleet is in bet­ter shape than many peo­ple think.

“It may be re­vealed that it is very safe,” Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor direc­tor of safety Daniel Elkins says.

“I’m pretty con­fi­dent it’s go­ing to re­veal that the fleet is quite good de­spite its age.”

Elkins also floats the pos­si­bil­ity that trucks may not be grounded so eas­ily in the fu­ture, and he wants the cri­te­ria for ma­jor and mi­nor de­fects to be made public.

His com­ments come as the NHVR’s Na­tional Road­wor­thi­ness Base­line Sur­vey (NRBS) is rolling out.

About 9000 heavy ve­hi­cles will be ran­domly in­spected dur­ing Au­gust and Septem­ber for the first na­tional sur­vey to check the me­chan­i­cal state of the na­tion’s fleet.

Trucks will be pulled into in­spec­tion sites and vis­ually in­spected by 50 spe­cially-trained state com­pli­ance of­fi­cers — most of them me­chan­ics by trade — work­ing in both metro and re­gional ar­eas.

The NHVR says there will be no queu­ing at in­spec­tion sites. Ve­hi­cles will also be put over brake roller testers and sus­pen­sion shakers. In­spec­tions are ex­pected to take 20 to 45 min­utes.

The sur­vey was of­fi­cially launched by the NHVR at the Heavy Ve­hi­cle En­gi­neer­ing and Tech­ni­cal Con­fer­ence (ComVec) in Mel­bourne in June.

CUR­RENTLY, the states and ter­ri­to­ries each have dif­fer­ent in­spec­tion and data regimes, which means the con­di­tion of heavy ve­hi­cles na­tion­ally is un­clear.

The sur­vey in­spec­tions will test against cri­te­ria in the new, con­sis­tent Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle In­spec­tion

Man­ual, which came into ef­fect on July 1 — ex­cept in Western Aus­tralia and the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

How­ever, the NHVR is con­fi­dent WA will come on board soon.

“We are en­cour­ag­ing op­er­a­tors to be aware of the sur­vey when sched­ul­ing to al­low ap­pro­pri­ate time for in­spec­tions,” NHVR CEO Sal Petroc­citto says. “We un­der­stand the im­por­tance of the sup­ply chain and where pos­si­ble will en­sure min­i­mal dis­rup­tion oc­curs.

“There’s been a lit­tle bit of noise from some sec­tors of the as­so­ci­a­tions say­ing we’re go­ing to be hold­ing up the sup­ply chain. I think that’s just rub­bish.

“I think this is a re­ally im­por­tant ini­tia­tive, and if the sup­ply chain can’t find 20 to 30 min­utes to ac­tu­ally get an un­der­stand­ing of the con­di­tion of the fleet, then we’ve all re­ally got to go back and look at what we’re do­ing as an in­dus­try.

“Wher­ever pos­si­ble, we will en­deavor to en­sure that we don’t de­lay tasks, but I sup­pose I’m con­cerned if you have op­er­a­tors that are track­ing right down to the minute, are they re­ally sched­ul­ing prop­erly in terms of is­sues that might be oc­cur­ring on the road, be­cause there’s road­works and other stuff like that?”

The NHVR says it has sup­port for the sur­vey from in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions.


Daniel Elkins is direc­tor of safety with the NHVR. In­trigu­ingly, it sounds like he’s hav­ing a de­bate with his own col­leagues about the thorny is­sue of mi­nor and ma­jor de­fects.

“There’s a view in the NHVR that we should not pub­lish the de­fect guide­lines … be­cause it would cre­ate ar­gu­ments on the side of the road,” Elkins says.

But his per­sonal view is that they should be pub­lished.

“It’s about trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity,” he says. “Why shouldn’t you as a driver or op­er­a­tor know what con­sti­tutes a mi­nor or ma­jor de­fect? That can only im­prove road safety can’t it?”

But first, the reg­u­la­tor has to “get in or­der” its abil­ity to have na­tional con­sis­tency in terms of the com­pe­tency of in­spec­tors, the in­spec­tion it­self, and the way de­fects are cleared.

“We have a lot of work to do to en­sure we have that con­sis­tency in the in­spec­tion regime,” Elkins says.

The NHVR also needs a lot of money it doesn’t yet have to estab­lish a na­tional com­puter data­base.

That data­base would also hold in­for­ma­tion on driv­ers, op­er­a­tors and road in­fra­struc­ture that would en­able a “risk-based” ap­proach to com­pli­ance, such as tar­get­ing prob­lems rather than a blan­ket ap­proach.

“NRBS is about ac­tu­ally ask­ing the ques­tion should we be spend­ing all this money on ve­hi­cle stan­dards and in­spec­tion of heavy ve­hi­cles?” Elkins says. “What is the ac­tual road safety im­pli­ca­tion of poorly main­tained ve­hi­cles?”

“Do I re­ally care that you have got a bro­ken light when there are 10 other lights on the ve­hi­cle that are ac­tu­ally func­tion­ing?

“Is it re­ally af­fect­ing the road safety of that ve­hi­cle?

“Does one bald tyre make a ve­hi­cle un­safe? Is it six bald tyres? … Is one de­fect a ground­able of­fence; is it five de­fects?”


The NHVR has re­leased a swathe of in­for­ma­tion about the road­wor­thi­ness sur­vey on its web­site, at

It in­cludes re­ports from statis­ti­cians on sam­pling and method­ol­ogy, guid­ance for the in­spec­tors in­volved, and fre­quently asked ques­tions. Some of these are: Q: How long will an in­spec­tion take? A: On av­er­age around 45 min­utes — maybe less time for com­pli­ant ve­hi­cle com­bi­na­tions and maybe more for large com­bi­na­tions or non- com­pli­ant ve­hi­cles

Q: Can my ve­hi­cle be de­fected dur­ing a Sur­vey in­spec­tion? A: The Sur­vey is a re­search project … but if the ve­hi­cle is not com­pli­ant then a de­fect no­tice or other en­force­ment ac­tion may be taken in line with nor­mal prac­tice.

Q: Does a Sur­vey in­spec­tion count as rest or work? A: Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Sur­vey is con­sid­ered to be work time for the pur­pose of your work diary and for fa­tigue man­age­ment con­sid­er­a­tions.

Q: What is the chance of be­ing pulled over for a Sur­vey in­spec­tion? A: Very low. We will be in­spect­ing ap­prox­i­mately 1.7 per cent of Aus­tralia’s 520,000 heavy ve­hi­cle fleet.

Also on the web­site are draft ver­sions of the data record­ing forms.

Truck brands Cat and Fuso might be of­fended that they don’t ap­pear un­der an al­pha­bet­i­cal check­list of makes, and will have to fea­ture un­der ‘Other’.

On the other hand, a few smoke­blow­ers must be ex­pected be­cause Leyland and White do make it onto the al­pha­bet­i­cal list.

Af­ter the na­tional road­wor­thi­ness sur­vey is com­pleted, the new na­tional in­spec­tion man­ual will be reg­u­larly re­viewed.

First cab off the rank will be the sec­tion on brakes. The NHVR con­cedes prob­lems ex­ist with the roller brake test on un­loaded trail­ers.

NHVR direc­tor of safety Daniel Elkins Sal Petroc­citto is the NHVR’s CEO

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