Operation Austrans: IS YOUR RIG ROADWORTHY?


Operation Austrans 1Up to 14 per cent of trucks on South Australian roads are being driven with some kind of defect.

That’s part of the initial findings from Operation Austrans, a massive multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional enforcement operation targeting heavy vehicles across Australia and New Zealand.

The South Australian leg of the annual, month-long program was conducted in May, with police stopping and searching trucks on the road.

The focus was primarily on safety, covering everything from overloading, to speeding vehicles, assessing load restraint and testing drivers for alcohol and drugs.

Police allege that of the 4,000 trucks inspected in South Australia this year, 559 were in some way defected, with 158 recording major defects.

Of particular concern was that 42 of the vehicles stopped had unsecured loads, 60 were found to be breaching weight restrictions, and as many as 80 trucks demonstrated brake faults.

The three leading factors negatively affecting heavy vehicle driver safety are unchanged from previous years, with speeding, seatbelts and mobile phone use continuing to dominate the list.

The most common infraction was drivers failing to wear seatbelts, topping out at 33 notices served. Notices for unsafe vehicles totalled 15, and 19 infractions were recorded for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.

However, it’s not just the drivers under the microscope. Companies and owners are being held to account over vehicle maintenance, restraint and loading issues.

Now in its second year, chain of responsibility legislation is also being pursued in instances of overloading or fatigue, and everyone involved in the breach will be made accountable.

This year, over half of the 54 vehicles with load restraint issues will now have chain of responsibility investigations undertaken, scrutinising employers, consigners, and loading managers.

And a further 15 Traffic Infringement Notices have been issued to companies for permitting the use of an unsafe vehicle.

Heavy vehicles across the state in both metro and rural areas, from Ceduna, Port Augusta, Cockburn, and Renmark were stopped, with notices for work diary offences reaching 157 by the end of the operation.

Fatigue is still a worrying factor too. Although down from 29 infringements in 2015, this year saw 15 critical risk breaches, where drivers exceeded their working hours or failed to take their minimum rest time.

In some instances, drivers were so fatigued they were prevented from further driving.

Police note these statistics are especially worrying as fatigue is one of the “fatal five” factors that cause road crashes or traumas involving heavy vehicles.

70 Infringement Notices were issued to drivers or owners for using a heavy vehicle that contravenes vehicle standards and Australian Design Rules.

Altogether 519 Traffic Infringement Notices were issued for offences directly related to heavy vehicles.

Nationwide figures for 2016 are yet to be released – as Austrans operations are still underway in some states. The stats from the operation in South Australia indicate that there is still work to be done in some areas of the road transport industry to lift the standard to that which we would all regard as ‘best-practice.’