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Prime Mover Magazine


Operation Rolling Thunder in question

NSW Police in conjunction with the NSW Roads & Maritime Services (RMS), Victorian, Queensland, ACT, and South Australian Police Forces are conducting ‘Operation Rolling Thunder’, Australia’s largest ever heavy vehicle compliance operation.

The operation is in direct response to a two-day period from Monday 15 January to Tuesday 16 January in which three unrelated heavy vehicle crashes in NSW at Jackadgery, Cooranbong and Brocklehurst.

NSW Police, consisting of Highway Patrol and General Duties officers from metropolitan and regional areas, alongside RMS inspectors are currently conducting inspections of heavy vehicles at various locations in NSW, as well as conducting drug and alcohol testing of heavy vehicle drivers.

Queensland, Victorian, ACT, and South Australian Police are conducting simultaneous operations to ensure all heavy vehicles entering and leaving NSW are stopped, thoroughly inspected and drivers tested for drugs and alcohol.

Commander of NSW Police Traffic & Highway Patrol Command, Assistant Commissioner, Michael Corboy, said the operation presents an opportunity for police and other agencies to work together to ensure the entire trucking industry is operating safely on our roads.

“We simply cannot not stand by and accept that dangerous trucks are on our roads and are causing people to die," Corboy said.

“NSW carries the bulk of the nation’s freight and we need to ensure that all of the trucks coming and going from the state are safe and compliant, and that truck drivers are not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Today’s operation will test the entire heavy-vehicle industry in NSW and across other states.

“We will review results from the operation and stop any trucks, drivers, owners or operators who can’t comply with safety standards and road rules, to ensure all dangerous trucks are removed from our roads."

Roads and Maritime Services Director of Compliance, Roger Weeks, said this is one of the largest operations jointly conducted by Roads and Maritime and NSW Police.

“Last year more than half a million heavy vehicle units were inspected and we will continue to work closely with NSW Police to target and remove unsafe vehicles from NSW roads," Weeks said.

“NSW has the most comprehensive heavy vehicle safety and compliance system in the country and heavy vehicle drivers who ignore the law risk losing their licence and incurring heavy fines.

Chair of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Geoff Crouch, said Australia’s governments need to put in place long term solutions to road safety as well as undertaking police blitzes.

“In 2017, the number of deaths in NSW from crashes involving articulated trucks like semitrailers increased dramatically, but we know that most of the increase in deaths was in multi-vehicle crashes. About 80 per cent of fatal multi-vehicle crashes involving trucks are not the fault of the truck driver,” Crouch said.

“Truck compliance operations cannot possibly prevent these crashes, so governments need to take a broader, long term approach to safety as well as supporting police blitzes."

CEO of NatRoad, Warren Clark, also questioned the short-term thinking behind the blitz.

“The road toll is not going to be reduced in a context of blaming the truck industry in isolation for the regrettable deaths that occur on Australia’s roads," Clark said.

“In fact, the statistics show that in collisions involving fatalities the truck was not at fault on 93 per cent of occasions. The statistics also show that in an analysis of truck crash incidents mechanical failures were inconsequential with a 3.5 per cent incident level. In that context, tyre failure accounted for 52 per cent of losses attributed to a mechanical fault.

“NatRoad is very concerned about the recent spike in serious truck accidents in NSW. We have not seen this spike in other States, which are subject to the same heavy vehicle safety standards and fatigue management rules, so we must find out whether the problem is unique to NSW. Objective and concerted investigation of the recent incidents is essential.

“We offer our co-operation to the police but short-term solutions based on blaming the industry are not going to assist a long-term problem. Enhanced drug and alcohol testing of light vehicles should go hand-in-hand with increased enforcement of the law relating to the heavy vehicle industry. It is the behaviour of other drivers around heavy vehicles that requires attention, a matter that is best solved through education especially at the stage of getting a licence to drive.

“We also need to invest more in accident investigation to find out why incidents in NSW are increasing compared with other States and Territories. It is time for all authorities to fully support the new chain of responsibility laws that will come into force this year, laws which spread the responsibility for controlling on-road risk to other parties in the supply chain. These laws will do exactly what I required - take the heat off the driver and place responsibility for controlling risk with the party best able to take that step.

“NatRoad is also calling for a dedicated authority such as the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to promptly and fully investigate serious truck accidents and to share the results and recommendations publicly so that we can all take the appropriate action to stop these tragedies. Isolated law enforcement blitzes are useful to focus attention on the problem but are not a solution in the long term."

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