NHVR hints at fewer truck groundings

By: Steve Skinner, Photography by: Steve Skinner


The national regulator reckons its current roadworthiness survey might lead to less roadside dramas for truckies in the long run

NHVR hints at fewer truck groundings
NHVR director of safety Daniel Elkins.

 

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," says Daniel Elkins from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

"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 were made at the Heavy Vehicle Engineering and Technical Conference (ComVec) in Melbourne recently, and come as the NHVR’s National Roadworthiness Baseline Survey (NRBS) begins to roll out.

About 9,000 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.

Straight-shooter

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," he says.

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

As well as mechanical inspection records, that database would also hold information on drivers, operators and road infrastructure that would enable a "risk-based" approach to compliance, ie 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?"

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