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‘Disgrace’: 2,000 trucks receive defect notices in police crackdown

The Guardian, 2 February 2018
A police crackdown on truck safety across Australia has resulted in 2,000 vehicles being issued with defect notices and 26 drivers testing positive for drugs in less than 24 hours. The operation, which police said was the biggest so far, follows a spate of truck crashes in New South Wales that killed five people in two days last month. Police in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT were deployed in the large-scale truck safety crackdown on Thursday, dubbed “Operation Rolling Thunder”.

The results again raise concerns about vehicle safety and driver behaviour in an industry that has been under scrutiny for years.

The Transport Workers Union said they were further evidence the federal road safety watchdog should not have been abolished.

Police were spurred into action after three crashes involving heavy vehicles in New South Wales on January 15 and 16 killed five people.

The operation began early on Thursday. By 10pm, police had stopped 5,000 trucks and and drug-tested 1,752 drivers.

They issued 2,000 defect notices – sometimes multiple ones to the same vehicle – and detected 26 drivers with illicit substances in their system.

The NSW police traffic and highway patrol commander, Michael Corboy, said the results were “a disgrace”.

“To have more than2,000 defects issued in a single day within the heavy-vehicle industry shows that there is a lot of work to be done to ensure trucks are safe on our roads,” Corboy said. “The fact that we also caught 26 drivers who tested positive for drugs is just a disgrace.”

Figures show truck-related deaths have continued at largely unchanged rates in recent years. The long-term trend shows fatal crashes from articulated trucks have decreased slightly, while those involving rigid trucks have increased.

The latest figures from the federal Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics appear to suggest the number of truck-related deaths increased last year. In the first three quarters, there were 77 deaths from crashes involving articulated trucks and 63 deaths involving rigid trucks.

It was higher compared with the same period in 2016, when 73 fatal crashes involved articulated trucks and 60 involved rigid trucks.

The NSW roads and maritime services director of compliance, Roger Weeks, said the operation would rid the state’s roads of shonky operators who were giving the trucking industry a bad name.
“We got a really clear message from those responsible companies and those professional truck drivers [in the] industry telling us that they want us to get rid of the cowboys,” he told AAP.
“They want the ratbag element out of their industry because they know it’s those folk who are giving their whole industry a bad name, so that’s who’s in our sights.”