1 Dec 2018

Road safety probe: Everything you need to know

1:50 pm on 1 December 2018

What began as the issuing of two truck safety alerts has expanded into New Zealand's largest ever road safety investigation with thousands of vehicles nationwide that may have received faulty certifications.

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Thousands of vehicles may have received faulty certifications. Photo: 123RF

RNZ has been investigating since February when it was first uncovered that structural cracks had been found in truck and trailer units, triggering a safety alert for almost 3000 truck trailers.

The investigation has since expanded after it was revealed that major vehicle inspection company VTNZ was using an inferior brake test and NZTA had not been carrying out proper checks on companies that certify vehicles for the last two years.

So far, a total of 74 compliance actions are underway after an investigation of 152 urgent cases - 700 other cases are now being looked at.

Suspensions over Warrants of Fitness (WOF)

The public were warned in November about garages which have been allowed to issue warrants that may be faulty to thousands of vehicles. In some cases, the potentially faulty warrants had been issued for years.

  • Dargaville Diesel (and two inspectors), suspended late August - 1956 vehicle owners affected
  • Westland Automotive (and one inspector), Henderson - 3721 vehicles
  • Orient Motors (and two inspectors), Glenfield - 3494 vehicles
  • Aaron Grant, inspector at Te Aroha Automotive - 613 vehicles
  • Beemac Motors (and one inspector), Tokoroa – 1316 vehicles
  • Super Cheap Tyres & Auto Services (and one inspector), St Johns, Auckland – 2443 vehicles
  • El’s Auto Services (and one inspector), East Tamaki – 2754 vehicles
  • Susantha Ranatunga of Church Street Motors and Tyres, Onehunga – 4053 vehicles
  • Jet Tyres and Alignment (and one inspector), Glenfield – 850 vehicles
  • Sunnybrae Auto Services (and one inspector), Northcote - 747 vehicles
  • Frankton WoF and Tyre Station (and one inspector), Hamilton – 2836 vehicles

Four heavy vehicle certifying engineers suspended

The engineers were suspended over poor design and poor inspections. The poor design has led to corrosion or cracked towing connections. Major inspections every decade and every five years thereafter have also failed to pick up the cracks and corrosion which are also not easy to spot during routine inspections. The issue was brought to the public's attention in February.

  • Peter Wastney, Nelson, quit the industry in February - 1863 certifications of drawbeams, drawbars and towbars, revoked from April onwards
  • Dick Joyce, Wellington, suspended in June - 34 towing connections revoked of 400+ checked
  • Patrick Chu, Auckland, suspended October, 1 revoked
  • Adam McFarlane, Timaru, partially suspended

Problems with truck and bus Certificates of Fitness (COFs)

Investigations are on-going but one example is trucks and buses, including school and tour buses, being approved by VTNZ using an old brake testing system.

Three suspensions of repair certifiers

NZTA have found issues where certifiers have failed to follow standards when inspecting and certifying vehicles or repair manufacturers' have failed to follow repair processes and approved a vehicle that is still damaged. The public were notified in November.

  • Dale Barlass of Auckland (number of vehicles affected not made public)
  • Two others so far un-named

One suspension and two warnings of entry certifiers importing cars

Safety concerns were raised over importers who were too close to vehicle testers and questions over inspection quality. The public were warned in October. NZTA have proposed changes to toughen rules next year.

  • Vinz and Jevic warned by TA over delay in declaring ownership by Optimus
  • Abnesh Chand, AA North Shore - 31 vehicles

Driver training

  • One un-named niche provider has had its licence revoked

Four truck drivers suspended and 45 companies received notice to revoke licence

There were safety concerns over poor maintenance, incomplete logbooks, driving offences and fatigue. The public were warned in November.

  • Four unnamed truck drivers suspended
  • 20 unnamed companies (mostly trucking) received a notice to revoke a licence
  • 25 truck drivers received a notice to revoke a licence

Timeline of events

  • August 2017 - A trailer breaks off a truck near Murchison, triggering a NZTA investigation of certifying engineer Peter Wastney.
  • February 2018 - Two safety alerts issued by NZTA covering Peter Wastney's heavy vehicle certifications, and 1000 semi-trailers - mostly made by Maxi-TRANS - over a design prone to corrosion of the main connections. Mr Wastney quits as a certifier.
  • April (on-going) - NZTA flies in certifiers to top of the South Island and West Coast to fix the Wastney truck-trailers.
  • April - Government appoints a new NZTA board chair, Michael Stiassny.
  • May - Emails released to RNZ under OIA show truck industry worried for years about poor trailer designs and lax enforcement.
  • June - Another truck certifier suspended; 480 trucks affected.
  • October - Third and fourth truck certifiers suspended.
  • 15 October - NZTA board and the government strip the agency of its regulatory compliance management, handing it to Auckland law firm Meredith Connell; 850 open files being checked, including 152 urgent cases.
  • October / November - Three repair certifiers suspended. Other suspensions of WOF issuers (not confirmed by NZTA till 21 November onwards)
  • 21 November - Faulty WOFs issuance revealed by NZTA which links one death to them.
  • 23 November - The government orders the Transport Ministry to review NZTA.
  • 29 November - Scrutiny of 152 files completed with half resulting in action, including immediate suspensions and notice to revoke licences.

WOF inspectors suspended this year:

  • August - Dargaville Diesel Specialists suspended, as well as inspectors Rodney Wilson and Brent Nurse - 1956 vehicle owners urged to get WOFs rechecked.
  • October - Orient Motors, and Dong Xiao Lin and Yong Xiang Feng - 3494 vehicle owners.
  • October - Aaron Grand, Te Aroha Automotive - 613 vehicle owners.
  • November - Westland Mechanical and Tyres, and Akram Zakeri, in Henderson - 3721 vehicle owners.
  • November - Susantha Ranatunga (who works at Church Street Motors and Tyres), in Onehunga - 4053 vehicle owners.
  • November - Jet Tyres and Wheel Alignment, and Anderson Lee - 850 vehicle owners.
  • December - El's Auto Services, and Elia Sipaia, in East Tamaki - 2754 vehicle owners.
  • December - Super Cheap Tyres & Auto Services, and Patrick Ah Wong, in St Johns, Auckland - 2443 vehicle owners