Raising the BARR – Week ending 7 September 2018

There must be something wrong with the speedometer in my car

In my role as a local MP, I drive a lot.  I do almost a thousand kilometres each week.  At least half of those kilometres are done between Cessnock and Sydney – on the M1.

Over the past 4 years or more, I have noticed that I am no longer passing trucks on the M1 anywhere near as often as I used to.  I am certain that there are more trucks on the road, not less.  I am confident, and I have double checked, that trucks are still limited to a 100kmh speed limit.  In theory, at 110kmh in my car, I should still be going past trucks fairly regularly but for some reason this is not happening.  In fact sometimes, it’s the trucks going past me.

In my office, I have had several heavy vehicle driver training companies express their frustrations to me about the current training system.  They describe the current system, rolled out in 2013-14 as “a joke” and “a danger to society”.  Their concern is that drivers are no longer being trained properly and that inspectors from RMS that used to inspect and supervise the driver training process have been sacked and that surprise spot inspections rarely take place now.

On the road, it was my lived experience that the heavy vehicle inspection station at Mt White on the M1 was staffed less often and that the same was true of the 12 Mile Creek station just north of Raymond Terrace.  It is also my lived experience that I see the mobile heavy vehicle inspectors, that set up temporary inspection stations at various points around the state, far less often in 2018 than I did back in 2012.

Meanwhile, we have had truck drivers driving into tunnels in Sydney with over-size loads and jamming up the entire network and we have had an over-supply of heavy vehicle crashes, often fatal, on our major roads including the M1.

So in November of 2017 I started to ask some questions about heavy vehicle logbooks, checking stations, inspections and fines.  The questions have continued throughout 2018.  In response to my questions; RMS have said that it is a matter for Police and Police have said that it is a matter for the RMS.  Insiders have confirmed that inspections are happening far less often and that of the 50 experienced heavy vehicle inspectors that used to work for RMS, only 3 remained. Insiders also told me that random inspections of vehicles at a home or business address has now almost completely disappeared.

Making our roads safe, for you and your families, for me and my family, requires regulations, inspection and enforcement.  Small minded people call this stuff “red tape” but I call it “safety”.  The poor old truck driver is stuck in the middle; trying to do a safe days work while at the same time being pressured and pushed by impossible deadlines imposed on them by greedy bosses.

It is uncomfortable and confronting, but I have no doubt in my mind that a number of heavy vehicle road fatalities in recent years are a direct result of Government policy – removing safety regulations and cutting the RMS budget.