Blitzes to continue despite industry concerns
"OPERATION Rolling thunder? we call it Operation Rolling PR blunder," says Steve Shearer.
As one of the most vocal opponents to the recent blitz on heavy vehicles Steve, the executive director of the South Australian Road Transport Association, still isn't happy.
During the 24-hour operation in early February more than 5000 trucks were inspected and 2000 defect notices were issued.
All part of Australia's largest heavy-vehicle focus which spread across Qld, NSW, SA and Victoria.
However Steve feels the numbers publicised didn't warrant the negative press for the industry.
"Drivers are absolutely fed up," he said.
"We know heavy vehicles aren't the ones causing the accidents and we know from past experience 80 per cent of trucks inspected would have been issued defects for minor technical issues, that have no consequence to safety," he said.
"We have plenty of examples.
"So we want to hold the police to account, we are asking how the hell do these blitzes achieve anything apart from chest beating?" he said.
The association was so incensed by what Mr Shearer describes as "overly generalised PR," he is calling on other drivers to assist him in getting the "balance right".
To prove the point SARTA has since put out a call to "defect victims" of Operation Rolling Thunder, asking them to confidentially forward the notices they received.
"We are just trying to get fairness," he said.
"We are not interested for one minute in supporting ratbag drivers who don't keep their vehicles up to standard, however when the authorities take half a man's wages for a minor clerical error we do want to do something.
"If drivers want this rubbish to stop we need to show the examples."
Mr Shearer did, however, concede there was a slight change in rhetoric since the industry made its concerns known.
"There was a state announcement yesterday where I detected a change in tune saying effectively 94 per cent of industry compliant," he said.
"Very different from when they were bagging the whole industry with overly generalised PR."
Road Freight NSW General Manager Simon O'Hara has also questioned the validity of the blitz, and its real impact on road safety.
"I would say 24 hours of check does not make it rolling or thunderous," Mr O'Hara said.
"The operation was expedient and was perhaps aimed at the assuaging fears within NSW following on from the horrific spate of accidents we saw in January.
"But our members take safety very seriously and believe there is a case to answer for having some sort of education in place," he said.
Drivers however can expect a second round of compliance actions following the announcement of Operation Shield.
In the sequel to Operation Rolling Thunder, NSW Roads and Maritime Services inspectors will be working with the NHVR in what they have again dubbed "one of the nation's largest heavy vehicle compliance actions".
Roads and Maritime Services Director of Compliance Roger Weeks said Operation Shield would build on what he described as the success of Operation Rolling Thunder.
"The results of Operation Rolling Thunder showed some heavy vehicle operators had critical fatigue breaches and had tampered with speed limiters," Mr Weeks said.
"The message is clear, don't drive tired and stay within speed limits. If you want to flout the law it is only a matter of time before you are caught.
"Everyone has a responsibility to be safe on our roads.
"During Operation Rolling Thunder our inspectors detected a heavy vehicle which had its speed limiter tampered with, enabling a shocking 128 km/h speed limit.
"In another case, a driver tried to hide 111 pages of a work diary under the mattress in the sleeper cab to avoid detection.
"Fortunately, the majority of truckies and companies do the right thing - it is those who don't that we are targeting - because it is completely unacceptable that the things we are seeing are still happening.
"Safety is our highest priority and we will continue to work with industry to ensure compliance levels can be lifted and systemic safety failures are stamped out."
Strong penalties are in place under the Chain of Responsibility, with fines exceeding $10,000 for individuals and companies facing in excess of $50,000.