Inside the bunker:
Marulan opens its doors to industry
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.
INSIDE THE BUNKER
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.”
A BRICKBAT FOR NSW RMS
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
The NHVR’s Tony Martin
Brake drum fault line