Truckers welcome speed reforms, reject IAP

Australia’s governments must allocate more resources to the planned heavy vehicle speed reforms to ensure they can be implemented at the same time as the new fatigue laws in September, according to the Australian Trucking Association.

The heavy vehicle speed reforms will require company managers, schedulers and customers to take reasonable steps to make sure their delivery schedules and deadlines do not force drivers to speed.

Australia’s transport ministers agreed on a model law in January, but New South Wales is the only state pushing to implement the reforms this year. In a letter to Australia’s transport and police ministers, the chair of the ATA’s Safety KRA, Steve Shearer, said the delay was apparently due to limitations that governments had placed on the resources available for the heavy vehicle reform process.

“We do not believe that a lack of allocated departmental resources is an appropriate reason for governments not to deal with an issue which ministers themselves keep highlighting, and rightly so, as a major road safety issue,” Steve said in the letter.

Steve said the failure to implement the fatigue and speed reforms simultaneously would dramatically weaken the effectiveness of the fatigue reforms.

“Fatigue/driving hours and speed are two sides of the same coin; they are both directly and fundamentally about how, and how fast, a truck is able to get from point A to point B,” he said.

“In our view, it is inconsistent for governments and responsible ministers to argue that they are working with the industry to effect key safety reforms, including the fatigue reforms as a key to reducing heavy vehicle accidents, when this would only address half of the problem.

“Failure to implement the speed reforms along with the fatigue reforms will merely serve to ‘drive’ increased levels of irresponsible speeding behaviour by that small minority of the industry which currently disregards speed limits, in an endeavour to compensate for the tightened driving hours laws."

On behalf of the trucking industry, Steve called on transport and police ministers to implement the heavy vehicle speed reforms either with the fatigue reforms at the end of September 2008 or very shortly thereafter.

He said governments should provide increased resources to their transport agency and Parliamentary Counsel/legislative drafting areas to ensure this occurred in a proper and thorough manner.

Police ministers would also need to develop an effective and targeted speed enforcement regime in consultation with the industry to cover any lag period between the start of the fatigue reforms and the start of the speed reforms.

Steve said the new enforcement regime would be needed to discourage recalcitrant operators from using the absence of the speed reforms and their substantial penalties to make up for the tightened fatigue reforms (i.e. by speeding to make up for having to comply with the reduction in allowable driving hours) and not simply focus on the bulk of the industry that is doing the right thing.

At the same time, the ATA has rejected a need for the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) a solution looking for a problem.

The NSW Government should rethink its involvement in the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) and open its higher mass limits network to all trucks that meet standard conditions, ATA CEO Stuart St Clair said.

“The Intelligent Access Program is a classic example of how enthusiasm for a new gadget can sweep aside common sense. It failed in Europe and will fail in Australia,” Stuart said.

“There’s no evidence that trucking operators are breaching their road access conditions on a widespread basis. The state and territory governments are pressing the industry to use this expensive and complicated technology because it is available, not because there is a genuine problem that needs to be addressed.

“Instead of requiring IAP, the NSW Government should open its HML and higher productivity networks to all trucks that meet the standard conditions needed to protect the road and ensure they are operating safely.”

Stuart said the Intelligent Access Program did have legitimate uses, such as reducing the cost of escorts for trucks carrying large and indivisible loads such as cranes or heavy mining equipment.

“The IAP could also be used to monitor operators who have been caught breaching road access conditions. They could be required to sign up to IAP as a condition of staying on the road,” he said.

“But it is a complete waste of money to roll out IAP on a broad scale at a time when the states and territories are not paying enough attention to heavy vehicle reforms that will save lives.

“Instead, the states and territories need to focus on better speed management, getting the new fatigue laws right, and building more rest areas,” Stuart said.

Under the Intelligent Access Program, trucks are fitted with tracking equipment and monitored by a certified provider. The provider notifies the authorities when the trucks breach their road access conditions.

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