ATA, Coghill voice concerns over maintenance and self-regulation

Truck maintenance accreditation and industry self-regulation brought into sharp relief in the wake of Cootes crash

ATA, Coghill voice concerns over maintenance and self-regulation
ATA, Coghill voice concerns over maintenance and self-regulation
By Rob McKay | October 14, 2013

Truck maintenance accreditation and industry self-regulation have been brought into sharp relief in the wake of the Cootes Transport crash.

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Stuart St Clair has warned of an erosion of community trust in the trucking industry when fleets are found with serious safety shortfalls.

He is joined by academic and former politician Professor Ken Coghill of Monash University, who says the Cootes incident is "a worrying sign for the future of self-regulation".

While not mentioning Cootes by name, St Clair sheeted maintenance responsibility to truck owners in a blunt message to ATA members with ramifications to the wider industry.

"When an operator, large or small, fails to keep their truck fleet to a strong standard of maintenance it can lead to a situation that causes the deaths of innocent people," St Clair writes.

"The managers who control the cheque books must understand the absolute importance of spending the money necessary to maintain a safe fleet.

"Incidents like this damage our industry as a whole. The ATA and our member associations work tirelessly across Australia to maintain strong relationships with government and the community in order to make sure our members get a fair go."

St Clair says the relationships industry establishes with government start to erode trucking firms are found not to be maintaining their equipment.

"If trucking operators aren’t trusted to self-regulate and ensure the safety of those around us, we’ll soon find the industry isn’t invited to the table when these policies are discussed. Regulations and rules will simply be bought in and enforced without an input from the industry," he says.

"The community must be able to have confidence that the truck they drive next to on the road is a safe and well maintained vehicle.

"There’s no excuse for poor maintenance. If a vehicle has a fault, fix it or ground it yourself. Don’t wait until it comes back to haunt you.

Coghill, an accountability expert, believes the extent of the repairs of the Cootes vehicles is "a clear indication that their faults were not trifling".

"Had the operator implemented its legal obligations to maintain the vehicles and practised ethically responsible management, the roads would have been safer and the reputations of senior management intact," he writes in a letter to the Australian Financial Review.

"This unfortunate case highlights the need to improve the design and operation of regulatory schemes that rely on self-regulation."

New South Wales Roads Minister Duncan Gay has aired concerns about the effectiveness of the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS), which Cootes was accredited in when its tanker rolled on October 1 near Sydney, killing two people.

He claims a "pick and choose" practice exists where companies decide which private auditors will inspect their vehicles.

Gay last week highlighted what he considered shortfalls in NHVAS, namely that trucks using NSW roads can be accredited in other states, as is the case with Cootes which bases its vehicles in Victoria.

"We have the safest fleet in the country but we have trucks crossing our borders that do not have to be inspected annually in NSW," Gay says.

"Under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme, trucks are examined in the state where a company is accredited. An auditor checks that maintenance work has been done and that the company follows all the business rules for vehicle maintenance for the states they operate in."

The ATA shares Gay’s concerns about NHVAS, with St Clair says the scheme is not rigorous enough when it comes to audits.

"In our own accreditation scheme, TruckSafe, we decide who does the audits. Our list of TruckSafe approved auditors consists of the best and most professional heavy vehicle auditors in the country," he says.

"It’s a much more robust approach, and its benefits have been confirmed by official NSW statistics. These show that TruckSafe operators have a much better record on maintenance compliance than operators in NHVAS."

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