Roadworthiness gains vital now and into the future

The safety of our industry is at the forefront of everything we do and a key element to keeping our drivers safe is ensuring heavy vehicles are roadworthy and safe to be on our roads.

Unfortunately, when roadworthiness is discussed outside the heavy vehicle industry it is usually as a result of a major crash or incident.

While there is still a way to go to improve compliance across the industry our 2021 National Roadworthiness Survey (NRS:2021) has demonstrated some real improvement over the past five years.

The survey, which measures the health of Australia’s heavy vehicle fleet, was first conducted in 2016.

The NHVR is committed to the National Heavy Vehicle Roadworthiness program, which was established in late 2014 to drive safety and efficiency improvements to the mechanical condition of Australia’s heavy vehicle fleet.

Last year NRS:2021 inspected 13,325 heavy vehicle units across 8338 heavy vehicle combinations in all Australian states and territories between May and June.

It was great to have all jurisdictions, including Western Australia and Northern Territory involved. In the five years between the two surveys, we have seen the rate of non-conformities drop from 48 per cent of units inspected to 31 per cent.

Importantly the most serious cases of major non-conformities and groundings has dropped from 12 per cent of inspected vehicles in 2016 to six per cent in 2021.

The continuing maturity of the industry in adopting better safety practices like whole of business safety management systems and daily safety checks, have been key contributors in driving the downward trend.

Our heavy vehicle operators, drivers and mechanics should be commended for their ongoing efforts in improving compliance and increasing the safety on our roads.

Some of the other findings from the NRS:2021 survey showed that again brakes remained the highest non-conforming components – although this category has reduced from 25 per cent in 2016 to 14 per cent in 2021.

And the average age of the inspected fleet was 10.2 years, compared to 9.2 years in 2016.

However, there was again a strong correlation between age of fleet and roadworthiness compliance.

For example, freight hauling units over the age of 12 were three times more likely to have defect, than vehicles less than three years old.

Which is why the effort to continue to improve heavy vehicle roadworthiness over the next five years must include incentives for new technology and programs that allow the heavy vehicle industry to drive down the age of the fleet.

Some of our goals and work programs at the NHVR are listed in our Vehicle Safety and Environmental Uptake Plan (Vehicle SETUP).

The Plan, which includes five work packages will be vital going forward.

The work packages include removing regulatory barriers that limit the adoption of advanced technologies, offering productivity gains as an incentive for the adoption of advanced technologies and providing education to industry on the safety, productivity and environmental benefits of new vehicle technology.

The results from NRS:2021 will also help inform the NHVR’s modern approach to regulation that uses intelligence to address the greatest safety risks and keeps compliant operators moving.

Finally, I’d also like to thank the operators and drivers, along with the NHVR staff and staff from transport agencies across Australia for their assistance in conducting the survey, particularly with constantly changing operating conditions due to local COVID restrictions.

Despite the challenges, officers across all states and territories inspected 17 per cent more heavy vehicles in 2021, and through the use of technology and consistent inspection systems they were able to reduce the average inspection time from 45 minutes in 2016 to 31 minutes in 2021.

While the data from NRS:2021 highlights the healthy progress made due to the hard work being undertaken to improve and monitor the Australian heavy vehicle fleet, I’m determined as an industry we continue to push on and ensure that Australia has one of the safest heavy vehicle fleets in the world.

The full survey and other results are available at

Sal Petroccitto

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