The NZTA is again looking into truck safety after a trailer unit came loose on a main NZ highway when its auto-brake failed.
The investigation will also be looking at whether certifiers are signing off trucks that have been assessed via photograph as opposed to in person.
The auto-brakes, designed to immediately stop any trailer that comes loose, failed on a 48-tonne truck-trailer that came off and ploughed into a bank earlier in the year. This resulted in a safety alert by the NZTA about “poor maintenance standards” on truck and trailer units.
NZTA cut its heavy vehicle compliance team of a dozen in half in 2014, even as more and more bigger, 50-tonne, 700-horsepower trucks were being allowed on the road…a move that was heavily criticised by industry organisations such as the Road Transport Forum.
“We warned them they would be understaffed” says Forum CEO Ken Shirley….”We have been concerned that NZTA as a regulator didn’t really seem to have the capacity, competence, or skillsets within its personnel to adequately oversee its regulatory function….They were required to accredit, audit, and monitor certifiers, but they were understaffed.”
The agency implemented a broad-brush approach to certifications last year, aimed at doing targeted checks based on "intelligence".
Safety inspections of 1000 refrigerated semi-trailers nationwide was undertaken by the NZTA, big reputable operators found problems: Hall's in Auckland had to repair or replace 12 towing connections mostly due to cracks after checks on 150 trucks.
Hall's raised semi-trailer design and safety concerns with the agency in March 2017.
All of this was in addition to the already serious situation of recertifying the multitude of trucks signed off by discredited engineer Peter Wastney.
NZTA this week also confirmed its investigation is also looking into accusations that some certifiers had been signing off truck-trailers remotely.
RNZ have been conducting their own investigation on the issue claiming that the NZTA has rejected 6 Official Information Act requests.
The media outlet has published conversations with people in the industry about the situation. Pundits raised grievances ranging from engineers cutting corners to poor auditing practices to problems with current New Zealand road transport laws.
Because of the myriad of ongoing issues being experienced some truckies are getting disheartened about getting on the road.
Truckers Union secretary Jared Abbott says that drivers are concerned about the trucks they are driving.
“You can put the numbers there, but we know that too little is being done,” says Abbott.The NZTA investigations are currently underway and will be ongoing.