In­side the bunker:

Maru­lan opens its doors to in­dus­try

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AS MOST of the truck­ing in­dus­try knows, the Maru­lan weigh­bridges a cou­ple of hours south of Syd­ney are ma­jor land­marks on the na­tion’s busiest high­way, the Hume.

But many op­er­a­tors and driv­ers don’t re­alise ‘risk-based’ screen­ing lane technology ex­ists on the ap­proaches to each of the fa­cil­i­ties.

“We do a num­ber of checks in a heart­beat, and then it’s a guid­ance sign which makes a de­ci­sion about whether the ve­hi­cle goes in or out [to the main weigh­bridge area],” NSW Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices (RMS) statewide op­er­a­tions man­ager Brett Pat­ter­son says.

Those in­stan­ta­neous checks in­clude cam­era scans of reg­is­tra­tion plates that can pick up pre­vi­ous mis­de­meanours and Safe-T-Cam trip speed data en route, ‘weigh-in­mo­tion’ technology as­sess­ing mass, and other sen­sors ex­am­in­ing height.

“Where there’s a pos­si­ble non­com­pli­ance, the truck will get sent in [to the weigh­bridge],” Pat­ter­son says. “For those good, com­pli­ant op­er­a­tors who are do­ing the right thing – along your merry way.”

Pat­ter­son was speak­ing at this year’s Tech­ni­cal and Main­te­nance Con­fer­ence (TMC) in Mel­bourne in Oc­to­ber.

The TMC is or­gan­ised by the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and Aus­tralian Road Trans­port Sup­pli­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. A pop­u­lar an­nual fix­ture at the TMC is the ses­sion called ‘What the In­spec­tors See’, fea­tur­ing heavy­weights from state heavy ve­hi­cle main­te­nance en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties.

This year, Pat­ter­son told del­e­gates that the NSW RMS was host­ing some of the larger truck­ing op­er­a­tors at safety sta­tions such as Maru­lan.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is putting a lot of work into in­dus­try “ed­u­ca­tion and en­gage­ment”. There are in­dus­try li­ai­son of­fi­cers and even a hot­line for truck­ies seek­ing in­for­ma­tion or want­ing to re­port in­ci­dents.


One of Maru­lan’s re­cent vis­i­tors was Lance Fisher, fleet main­te­nance man­ager with big Syd­ney op­er­a­tor John L Pierce, along with a cou­ple of his col­leagues.

Fisher is a for­mer win­ner of the ATA’s Craig Ros­eneder Award for tech­ni­cal and main­te­nance ex­cel­lence in the work­shop.

“It was fab­u­lous … we learnt a hell of a lot,” Fisher told the TMC del­e­gates. He added it was “en­light­en­ing” to see the technology avail­able to the in­spec­tors.

“There was a truck that had a mis­de­meanour on it … as soon as it went through the Bargo cam­eras on its way south, it came au­to­mat­i­cally up onto the main screen in Maru­lan, so al­ready he was ear­marked to come in and was still 45 min­utes or so up the road on his way down,” Fisher said.

“As soon as he came in [the screen­ing lane], the ar­row di­verted him in [to the weigh­bridge].

“I don’t know what the mis­de­meanour was, but ob­vi­ously then the in­spec­tors went out, they started hav­ing a look at log­book and li­cence, and then ob­vi­ously checked around the truck and trail­ers.

“It was a 19m B- dou­ble … he was out there for a while … the in­spec­tors took him up to the shed, he was up there for about an hour, and on the trail­ers they found the pis­tons into the disc on one wheel … there were three cracked ro­tors and there was no brake lin­ing on a cou­ple of pads of the re­main­ing axles.

“It had three tyres with wire hang­ing out of them, so it was an ab­so­lute bucket. They grounded the unit there and then.

“Then we were for­tu­nate enough to go un­der the tun­nel to the north­bound lane.

“What was alarm­ing in what we saw there was brakes over-stroking, plus an old farmer with his farm truck which was un­reg­is­tered and un­li­censed. He was grounded there and then.

“The one that was con­cern­ing the most was a rel­a­tively new PBS ve­hi­cle that had all the booster lengths set up in­cor­rectly, with the threaded end of the rod on the booster hit­ting and mush­room­ing on the slack ad­juster be­cause of the dif­fer­ence be­tween a met­ric slack ad­juster and a US half-inch cle­vis.”

Of the ex­pe­ri­ence over­all, Fisher

added: “There are still some blokes out there that don’t do the right thing, and ob­vi­ously they’re prob­a­bly not here to­day.”


RMS uses col­lected in­for­ma­tion to tar­get spe­cific op­er­a­tors and sec­tors.

Pat­ter­son says on any given day there are more than 460,000 heavy ve­hi­cles oper­at­ing on NSW roads, and more than 60 per cent of in­ter­state heavy ve­hi­cle traf­fic passes through the state.

NSW has by far the big­gest in­vest­ment of any state in heavy ve­hi­cle check­ing sta­tions, ex­am­in­ing technology and staff.

For ex­am­ple, there are eight safety sta­tions on ar­te­rial roads, in­clud­ing the Hume, Pa­cific, and Great West­ern High­ways.

“We screen over 3.2 mil­lion ve­hi­cles a year just at four check­ing sta­tions, and that’s how we are able to grab some of that data in the riskbased screen­ing,” Pat­ter­son says.

On top of these mil­lions of au­to­mated screen­ings in NSW came more than 540,000 phys­i­cal heavy ve­hi­cle in­spec­tions in 20152016. These com­prised: • 226,000 in­spec­tions at the eight

safety sta­tions • 120,000 dur­ing tar­geted blitzes with other agen­cies such as the NSW Po­lice and EPA • 100,000 ran­dom in­spec­tions on the

side of the road • 93,000 an­nual rego checks for larger ve­hi­cles. From the 540,000 over­all in­spec­tions, 117,000 no­tices were is­sued. That makes for an over­all no­tice-to-ve­hi­cle in­ter­cept rate of 22 per cent.

Spe­cific no­tice-to-in­ter­cept rates came in at 11 per cent for B-dou­bles, 20 per cent for semi-trail­ers, 20 per cent for rigids with trail­ers (e.g truck and dogs), 33 per cent for rigids, and a whop­ping 52 per cent for ‘plant’. Brakes ac­counted for a quar­ter of the key de­fects iden­ti­fied.

Part of the over­all in­spec­tions regime was ‘Op­er­a­tion State Trans’ in May. To­tal de­fects is­sued ran at 13 per cent, with the good news be­ing that of those, ‘ma­jor de­fects’ trended down to 11 per cent.

“We are able to do some data min­ing, look at some spe­cific op­er­a­tors, look at some spe­cific sec­tors, and un­der­take an op­er­a­tor pro­file”

To our reck­on­ing, that’s a ma­jor de­fect rate of less than 1.5 per cent.

Of the au­to­mated and phys­i­cal checks over­all, Pat­ter­son says: “We are able to do some data min­ing, look at some spe­cific op­er­a­tors, look at some spe­cific sec­tors, and un­der­take an op­er­a­tor pro­file.”

These “op­er­a­tor of in­ter­est” profiles lead to the tar­get­ing of “higher risk” op­er­a­tors who record penalty no­tices higher than the state av­er­age dur­ing in­ter­cepts.


Mean­while, the na­tional truck­ing reg­u­la­tor is also work­ing on a sys­tem that will lead to tar­geted en­force­ment of op­er­a­tors with dodgy main­te­nance.

The Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor is look­ing to NSW for in­spi­ra­tion as it de­vel­ops a main­te­nance com­pli­ance data­base.

The NHVR’s Tony Martin spoke of the project un­der way within the na­tional reg­u­la­tor to de­velop a “na­tional com­pli­ance in­for­ma­tion sys­tem” along the lines of NSW.

“It’s es­sen­tially go­ing to drag the com­pli­ance and en­force­ment in­for­ma­tion from ev­ery ju­ris­dic­tion,” Martin told the TMC del­e­gates.

“We’re go­ing to pool all that in­for­ma­tion to­gether and then we are go­ing to use it to pretty much do what Patto [ Pat­ter­son] is able to do in NSW – do that on a na­tional scale, so we’ll be able to un­der­stand and clearly see where the high­est risk ar­eas lie.

“We’ll be able to de­ploy our re­sources in a much more strate­gic way, and those com­pli­ant op­er­a­tors, we’ll let you get on with busi­ness.”


It wasn’t all pats on the back for NSW RMS at the TMC.

Kel Bax­ter is a bulk agribusi­ness truck­ing op­er­a­tor from Ber­ri­gan in south­ern NSW, and is also chair of the ATA’s In­dus­try Tech­ni­cal Coun­cil.

“NSW is not very for­giv­ing,” Bax­ter told the TMC. “At some sites I think they just keep you there un­til they find some­thing, and I don’t think it’s a pro­duc­tive use of any­one’s time for some of the things they come up with.

“I think one of the great things the NHVR has got the op­por­tu­nity to do is to bring some con­sis­tency into these [main­te­nance] stan­dards, and I might say the [na­tional] in­spec­tion man­ual has some work to go yet.

“I think the NSW ap­proach has to be mod­er­ated in an in­dus­try that I think has made great head­way in main­te­nance stan­dards, and in some cases it’s nec­es­sary, but I think RMS is still of the opinion that we haven’t achieved any­thing.”

Bax­ter gave an ex­am­ple of the dif­fi­culty oper­at­ing in NSW.

“A truck might be away in our case 10 days to a fort­night, and you get two and three days to fix a wind­screen and just mi­nor de­fects,” he said.

“I’ve got a lot of time for the sys­tem that used to be the for­mal warn­ing sys­tem. I look for­ward to the day that might be rein­tro­duced.”

It sounds like Kelvin’s wish might come true on for­mal warn­ings – also known as “self-clear­ing de­fects” – judg­ing by what the NHVR’s Tony Martin said the next day.

Martin said the NHVR wants to make de­fect clearance “seam­less” and “con­sis­tent”, and that part of the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law amend­ment pack­age be­fore the Queens­land Par­lia­ment is the na­tional im­ple­men­ta­tion of a self- clear­ing de­fect no­tice for mi­nor is­sues.

Brett Pat­ter­son from NSW RMS

I don’t think you’re sup­posed to put your fin­ger in there

Driver’s de­light

The NHVR’s Tony Martin

Lance Fisher


Brake drum fault line

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