It is another of those unseen problems which keep on creeping up on us. This time it is a change in brake testing rules, which no-one is ready for. Changes to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator roller brake testing rules will be coming on June 11 and the consequences are far from clear.
What we have is a situation which keeps on popping up with alarming regularity. A rule change which is being used by one part of the way the trucking industry is regulated to cause mischief. Using non-communication in advance of a rule change to cause havoc in the industry, to advance a self serving point of view.
This time it looks like the state authorities, who are sitting on their hands, are going to start failing trucks brought in for a roadworthy because their brakes do not meet a national standard being brought in. If there is a situation where trucks tested back at the workshop as passing braking tests are then failed at the state testing stations, the blame will go straight to the door of the NHVR, who are enforcing the change.
The problem comes from the wording of the new National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual, due to come into force in June. The book states, when using a roller brake tester, brake efficiency required on a service brake will now be a minimum of 45 per cent, as opposed to the 30 per cent used as a standard by states, more particularly NSW, in the past.
If there was no antipathy between the state authorities and the new NHVR then, I suspect, there would be no issue. Operators would be informed of the rule change, by their local inspectors in the lead up to the change. Those trucks failing braking tests in the first couple of months would be given warning but not treated too harshly.
As a result, the trucking industry would change its practices and re-calibrate roller testing results and we would all see safe vehicles on the road and passing road worthy tests without problem. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look as though it’s going to happen.
Instead, we have had no communication whatsoever. All of a sudden, on June 11, a workshop will have tested a truck fully in its own workshop, reckoned it will pass with flying colours, and taken it down to the testing station. This is when the proverbial will hit the fan, a truck adjusted to the previous level of braking efficiency, might pass the new regulations, but many will not.
The most likely scenario is going to be the central axle in a triaxle set is going to be considered as outside the parameters and failed, with all of the consequences this brings with it. An unladen middle axle has the least mass pushing down on a testing set-up, especially on air suspended trailers, increasing the chance of failing a brake efficiency test. The workshop manager and operator will be dumbfounded, they know they have done the right thing but are now in a situation where they have a truck in breach and will have to re-test.
At this point it will be very easy for the local testing station to explain the problem is not their fault, but is as a result of new rule changes sent down from on high by the NHVR. Nothing to do with them. This is starting to look a lot like the debacle which occurred when the NHVR first took over issuing permits. Yet again, the states will be shipping blame to the national authority for a problem which they themselves have been a party in creating.
The operator will be stuck with a non-compliant truck and a loss of faith in their own roller tester. Trucks which were compliant last week are no longer compliant this week. Everyone gets annoyed, the vehicles have to get retested and the states get a sly punch in on the national regulator.
What’s the solution? Communicate. Tell all and sundry about the rule changes now. Get everyone up to speed on what will be required of them (in essence, it’s simply bringing workshop practices up to the level practiced in Queensland for the past few years). Stop the in-fighting between agencies creating problems for honest operators who will lose valuable uptime due to bureaucratic bickering.