30 Nov 2018

NZTA told of truck regulation concerns years ago - Road Transport Forum

1:24 pm on 30 November 2018

The Transport Agency has been warned of regulation ineffectiveness around trucks from a number of years ago, a body representing truck drivers says.


Photo: 123rf

As part of the country's largest road safety investigation, it was revealed yesterday that 45 transport services and two service providers have been hit with a proposal to revoke their right to operate.

The inquiry has also suspended garages that issued almost 10,000 warrants of fitness, and suspended repair certifiers and truck certifying engineers.

Twenty of those are truck companies who are now on revocation notices of their licences. While the remainder are truck drivers who have also been put on notice, and four have been suspended immediately by the Transport Agency because of their driving history and medical problems.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley told Morning Report the investigation should be a warning to others.

"I think it is certainly a wake-up call for a very small minority in the land transport industry who have persistently breached legal requirements and as an industry we certainly don't condone that behaviour."

However, he said they had records showing they regularly expressed their concern to the agency from at least five or six years ago.

"The industry's been concerned for some time, about the ineffective regulations, or application of regulations, by the regulator. We've written to them over a number of years saying so, and now we're seeing some action."

Mr Shirley said it was important to understand those on notice represented only a small minority in the industry.

"The vast majority of road transport operators are highly professional, very legal law-abiding. We're talking about a very small minority."

However, the agency has previously said that suspension of drivers or operators did not come easily.

"There is a very narrow ability to suspend a transport service licence holder. It can only occur if the transport service does not hold a certificate of knowledge, law and practice," the agency said.

Meredith Connell lead investigator Steve Haszard, who took over managing road safety compliance last month after NZTA admitted failing to enforce the rules for years, said a review of the most urgent cases had revealed some "really concerning" behaviour by companies and individuals.

"So that's why we're moving as quickly as we can to get through the revocation process - some of those [truck company revocations] are coming in quite soon, like over the next week or two weeks."

The Transport Agency had not taken compliance action over these driver and company failings before now, he said. But the nationwide investigation underway now had made "significant progress".

The agency can't name the companies at risk of losing their operating licence until a month-long appeal period is up.

"If there's a significant safety issue they won't be on the road but until such time that's determined and the process is followed that we have to follow, that's the position," Mr Haszard said.

Despite the potential risk of accidents while those on notice still operated, Mr Shirley said the action taken by the agency was adequate for now and the month-long process should not be suspended.

"I believe responsible companies will take appropriate action where that might be the case. We can't just suspend due process."

Up to 2000 trucks had already had their certifications revoked, before law firm Meredith Connell was even called in by the Transport Agency's board to investigate in October.

On the other hand, Road Transport Association general manager Dennis Robertson warned that Meredith Connell lawyers on the inquiry may be over-reacting.

"What you have here is a law firm who has actually reviewed a whole lot of files, and I suspect they're saying, 'Nah, go ahead and revoke this', and I suspect what you're seeing here is the effect of that, rather than a major catastrophe," he said.

The industry had always had a rump of bad operators, and it would be good to clean them out, Mr Robertson said.

But an over-reaction could penalise good truckers too.

"At the end of the day we can't afford to lose too many trucking companies because we can't keep up with the freight task now."

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