PM: At the Australian Logistics Council and Australian Trucking Association Safety Summit in Melbourne it was suggested that in terms of enforcement NSW had it ‘just about right’ compared with other states. Do you have a comment?
RW: I feel a little bit chuffed about that. The message I get from the operators who do the right thing is they want a level playing field. We suspect that there is a small minority of operators who choose to not do the right thing and will take an infringement as a cost of doing business. They get a commercial advantage to undercut the operators that are doing the right things and spending their money on items like telematics and safety and compliance management regimes.
PM: Does that also apply to owner operators?
RW: My observation is that just because you may be a small operator with one, two or three trucks doesn’t mean that you’re not as good as an operator with a fleet of 50 and a staff of hundreds. I’ve gone to some organisations where you’d put them up with the best in the world. Because it’s a family business, they’re proud of it and they are absolutely invested in doing the right thing.
PM: In the area of compliance is there a challenge in getting RMS, police and the industry aligned?
RW: We work very closely with the police. We are respectful of our mutual roles, which are often complementary but different. Through the Joint Traffic Taskforce we run a monthly operational planning meeting as well as quarterly meetings with our CEO and Police Assistant Commissioner. My teams are in daily contact with the police as we support each other on joint operations. It’s a partnership approach and with the level of co-operation and collaboration I think it’s a successful model that works incredibly well.
If there is a safety lesson to be learned that’s relevant in one operator it could be just as relevant in another. Getting those connections to share that safety related information is something I can see a number of industry associations already facilitating. I think we will see safety and compliance managers as a feature of more and more organisations into the future and that can really start yielding a lot of value to the industry.
PM: The NHVR has taken over the enforcement task in South Australia and Tasmania and plans are advancing for it to do so in NSW. Is it an issue that we have the regulator doubling as the enforcement agency?
RW: Having worked in a Commonwealth regulator for 12 years there is a benefit of not having borders in terms of achieving harmonisation, consistency and efficiency. In my experience pretty much every regulator performs the two types of roles. It provides regulatory services in which case the regulated parties are in a customer relationship. In that environment sometimes you have to say ‘no’ because whatever is being asked for doesn’t meet the parameters of whatever the law is. It’s important in a regulatory service model you’ve got that proper customer service focus. I don’t see that as a dichotomy with the dual role of doing compliance and enforcement of the legislative framework and of whatever permissions has been granted under a regulatory service.
PM: To the broader industry you appear to be taking a more conciliatory approach than some predecessors. What is the philosophy behind this?
RW: Generally the vast majority of people want to do the right thing. Sometimes they don’t and that’s for a couple of different reasons: either they don’t know how to, so our response to that is different than if they don’t want to. Roadside interceptions are important for a couple of reasons. It’s the immediate intervention that if there is something detected we can absolutely prevent a crash. If we’ve got to direct a driver to take a seven or 24 hour rest break because they’ve got a critical fatigue breach that can mean we might have stopped them falling asleep at the wheel and running off the road or into someone else. If we detect a vehicle with no brakes and we give it a major grounded defect it means we might have stopped a crash. It’s also important because keeping a dip sample gives an indication of the health of the entire fleet. That means that doing an inspection on an operator where there is absolutely no issue found is as important. It’s not just the bad ones that we always look at. That’s why I can confidently now say over the half million inspections that we do a year the compliance rate of the industry is 86 per cent. So in 86 per cent of the times we look at a vehicle no fault is found of any description. That’s fantastic.
PM: How has that compliance rate changed?
RW: It’s been pretty stable for the past couple of years. What we are seeing is a change in the shape of the risks. At the moment there are a few risks that we are particularly targeting: speed, fatigue and roadworthiness around brake faults. The reason is that’s what our data is telling us. Our move to being risk-based means we’re data driven. As I go and talk with industry and associations I can demonstrate from the evidence this is why we are doing what we do. We look at it very strategically and at who it is we need to target. The data we are getting through the screening lanes and the camera network all feeds into our broader risk profiles of individual operator’s vehicles and sectors of the fleet. The data has lead us, presently, to have a focus on tipper truck and dogs across the entire Sydney metropolitan area. We are seeing an improvement. Is it as quickly as we’d like? No, but at least it’s not going the other way.