Heavy vehicle defect rates plummet in New South Wales

NSW congratulates trucking industry at close of Operation Austrans, but other states emphasise need for greater enforcement.

Heavy vehicle defect rates plummet in New South Wales
Duncan Gay says there has been a 50 per cent reduction in heavy defects in NSW.


Mixed views between state authorities have emerged at the end of this year’s Operation Austrans trucking compliance blitz, but the underlying note is a positive one.

Where New South Wales continues to emphasise gains, Victoria and South Australia drummed home that the risks of defective heavy vehicles and impaired truck drivers are too high for the community to bear.  

NSW police minister Troy Grant and roads minister Duncan Gay have congratulated heavy vehicle operators and their drivers for the 50 per cent reduction in heavy vehicle defects on that state’s roads.

"NSW enforcement is leading the way with the best compliance results in the country," Grant says.

Gay says 24 operations were carried out and more than 58,000 units inspected during the operation, which ran from May 18 to June 12.
"The results show a 50 per cent reduction in defects found in trucks compared with last year’s Austrans results," he says.

"The number of penalty infringement notices and breaches issued were also down."

Police assistant commissioner John Hartley says that while the results are mostly positive, there is an increase in speed limiter tampering and drug use. 

During the operation NSW authorities:

  • inspected 58,238 trucks and trailers
  • issued 4,360 defects, about half the amount from the 2014 operation
  • applied 3,386 infringements & breaches for licensing, fatigue, and registration offences
  • conducted 707 engine control module downloads, identifying 90 to have been tampered, to allow speeds over 100km/h
  • conducted 3,124 drug tests, identifying 45 positive results. 

Victoria Police also noted a better industry performance than previously.

But heavy vehicle unit inspector Bernie Rankin says there is no place on the roads for drivers taking risks.

"While it is pleasing that the ratio of drivers caught with drugs during the operation was lower than recent trends, one driver taking drugs is one too many," he says.

"Collisions involving heavy vehicles can have catastrophic results, which is why we will continue to remove those selfish drivers who put other roads users at risk."

The force checked almost 3,000 heavy vehicles.

A total of 1,607 offences were detected during the operation including 28 for drug driving (1 in 35 tested), 49 mobile phone offences, and 397 for fatigue and work diary offences.

In South Australia, more than 5,000 heavy vehicles were stopped and inspected across the state by police and Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure compliance officers over the month-long operation.

Superintendent Bob Fauser says the results demonstrate that while most drivers and companies are doing the right thing, a significant number still don't appear to be taking their safety and the safety of other road users seriously.

"Of great concern is the high number of defects, particularly in the metropolitan area," Fauser says.

"There were 211 major defects; these are serious, immediate safety risks and a further 513 minor defects detected.

"There was also a high number of drivers not taking their driver fatigue and work diary requirements seriously – 88 drivers were found to have exceeded their working hours and failed to take vital rest periods.

"We know that heavy vehicle driver fatigue is a significant contributing factor with road safety and crashes. Working too long without a rest period is a danger to all road users."

Alcohol detections were down to one out of the 3,819 tests done over the month, but there were 31 positive drug tests returned out of 2,141 tests.

Other concerning detections were: speeding (33), using mobile phones (25), driving unlicensed (12) and not wearing seatbelts (33).

Police found the latter especially disappointing as they were all detected during a well-publicised national operation.

Fauser says while the operation is over for another year, police will continue to enforce the law with heavy vehicles beyond the operation.

"We're not going to stop – with so many heavy vehicles on the roads, we need to ensure all drivers and companies are taking their safety and the safety of other road users seriously," he says.

"Four recent heavy vehicle incidents, all within the space of a few hours, continue to highlight the increased risk that exists when, for whatever reason, a heavy vehicle driver loses control.

"The heavy vehicle industry will often be critical of what some consider to be disproportionate policing of their industry, but because of the mass and rigidity of heavy vehicles, the consequence of a crash is generally catastrophic for someone.

"Operation Austrans continues to demonstrate an unwillingness on the part of many drivers and operators of heavy vehicles to accept the additional responsibility that comes with driving these heavy vehicles on our shared roads."


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