Defect details defective

There is on-going concern in our industry that information on defect notices released to the media lacks clarification and consistency by authorities – not just regarding the actual number of them, but also the severity of those defects.

It seems information released and appearing in the press varies widely due to grey areas regarding breaches, and whether classification as a major or minor defect has been properly identified.

Now, don’t for one moment think we are defending those operating trucks with defects. We support those whose vehicles meet high safety standards and regard truck maintenance and overall excellent condition as a necessity rather than an aim. There is only one type of truck to be on our roads and that is a safe one.

The tragic tanker crash in Sydney last year highlighted safety concerns with some heavy vehicles and brought the industry as a whole under scrutiny. Nobody can argue the fact that if there is an issue, it must be addressed immediately in order to keep our roads safe. Operators do their utmost to maintain high equipment levels, but when it comes to defect severity the question must be asked: Is the problem detected and level of severity at discretion of the inspection and if so, why is there no consistency?

Media reports simply list the number of defect notices issued without any explanation of the type of problem detected. As an example, one side light not operating on a trailer is an issue, but it is certainly not an item compromising safety. Any concerned truck operator will address this minor problem in an efficient manner and while it is a defect, it is unfortunate a roadside interception will result in the issuing of a notice.

One operator in New South Wales was ordered to present a number of his trucks for inspection, an instruction he was more than willing to comply with as his fleet is maintained to the highest standard, but one prime mover was tagged as having two serious safety defects.

The left corner of the windscreen had a small crack approximately 3cm in length and down on the bumper there was a small bend in the number plate. He was aware of the minor problem with the windscreen yet had no idea the small amount of damage to the number plate existed due to the fact it was perfectly legible, but both were regarded as ‘serious’ defects on the truck.

This particular operator has one of the most stringent and intense maintenance reporting systems in place, something he has developed to address every item of concern. His program is regarded as one of the most detailed in the industry, over and beyond requirements and highly effective, yet he was slapped with notices of ‘serious’ defects, an action he is still trying to come to grips with.

We support safety inspections and resultant issuing of breaches to operators, particularly in relation to problems detected in relation to safe operation, but the classification of defects needs to be explained in detail.


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