20 Dec 2019

Pacific Haulage escapes penalty after logbook and maintenance breaches

2:55 pm on 20 December 2019

A trucking company that falsified logbooks and repeatedly failed roadside inspections has escaped penalty.

Generic picture of truck driver recording / logging information.

Photo: 123RF

Pacific Haulage Limited (PHL) operates trucks out of Gisborne and was audited after concerns were raised by police's Commercial Vehicle Safety Team.

The Transport Agency (NZTA) threatened to revoke the company's operating licence when it found out its trucks were failing roadside checks at a rate far higher than the national average, and its drivers were working up to 14 hours without breaks.

The company was audited in March this year.

An internal memo penned in May outlined it was clear there was no system at all for keeping the trucks up to a roadworthy standard.

"Records show mostly reactive maintenance repairs, such as replacing lights, damaged fixtures and fittings like chains and securing points, trailer plugs and sockets, and leaking shock and brake components as examples.

"There is no clear pattern to suggest that a proactive maintenance programme is in place."

The memo said despite assurances by management that daily predeployment checks were undertaken - without written or recorded evidence - it was more likely this was not the case.

It also identified serious logbook and work time breaches for most of the company's drivers after comparing their logbooks to the GPS systems in their trucks.

"Recording start and end times in logbooks to comply with 10-hour break rules, but GPS records show the vehicle moving outside of these times. There was also one instance of a driver recording a 15-hour work day.

"In a lot of instances, the driver's logbook entries constitute false entries. Some drivers are therefore driving between 10 and 14 hours without taking a legal break."

It then concluded the failure to manage fatigue posed a "serious risk to the roading network and the safety of all users".

In the memo, the NZTA recommended issuing Pacific Haulage with a 'Notice of Proposal to Revoke', meaning it would lose its license to operate.

However, the company promised to change.

In an August memo, the NZTA said it was pleased about changes the company were implementing and it had decided not to issue the notice.

"A logbook checking system had just been implemented when we first met with PHL in March 2019. This is continuing and showing a pattern of improvements with less errors and omissions occurring. Clear notes are made showing what issues were identified and what discussions took place with drivers."

"To bring about change in driver behaviour the company has implemented a driver bonus scheme which is awarded quarterly to the top driver for truck condition, overspeeds, incident reporting and most co-operative... this is being driven by friendly rivalry between staff and they are each holding others to account if they see anything requiring attention."

It said it was happy with changes to the vehicle maintenance system, which included better record-keeping and checks when trucks went into the workshop.

It was also impressed the company was recruiting for a full-time driver trainer.

The changes do seem to have made a difference, with roadside pass rates up to 65 percent.

The national average was 83 percent.

NZTA Safer Commercial Transport senior manager Brett Aldridge said he was confident the operator was now operating safely and punishment was not required.

"We are a firm and fair regulator and are very focused on the outcome which is mitigating risk and achieving safe transport operations. How we reach that outcome generally depends on how the operator engages with us, accepts the need for change, and puts in place measures to address compliance in a timely manner.

"In this instance Pacific Haulage Ltd responded well and took actions that have resulted in the company improving its levels of compliance and, consequently, safety. Where operators do not take actions to address issues, we have statutory processes which we won't hesitate to use to stop unsafe operations.

"Fines and prosecutions are some of the actions we take where necessary as a consequence of poor and unsafe operations."

Pacific Haulage director Warwick Wilshier said the findings of the audit were "challenging", but the company was committed to operating safely.

"They have raised some points that I have subsequently addressed. This is a dynamic business working in extremely difficult terrain. Conditions are constantly changing and we won't always be perfect.

"My staff are constantly under training, including NZTA endorsed Rollover Prevention Programs. As to specific issues, we have worked with NZTA to resolve them. We are a safety sensitive industry and the safety of our drivers and those they share the road with is paramount."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs