An alarming number of heavy vehicle drivers on Sydney roads are in breach of safety regulations, according to the latest investigations carried out by the NSW government.
In a five-day long intensive operation, officers from the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and the NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol inspected 700 heavy vehicles. Around 66 per cent of these should have been off the road for a number of reasons.
The light and heavy trucks were found to have loads well in excess of the legal limit, unsecured cargo and shifting loads. Some vehicles' speed limiters had also been tampered with.
Such carelessness comprises the safety of all road users, according to a statement released by the RMS
How severe is the problem?
The initiative is carried out on a regular basis by the Joint Heavy Vehicle Taskforce.
The latest operation was carried out at Wetherill Park and Botany.
The officers found eight trucks with tampered speed limiters. This means the drivers were travelling above the legal speed limit. In fact, one truck's limiter had been tinkered with to allow it to travel at more than 150 km per hour.
Another heavy vehicle was in breach of several legal loading requirements, with metal items jutting from the side as well as numerous unsecured metal bars. The same vehicle also had brake issues.
RMS Director Safety and Compliance Peter Wells says such a relaxed approach to road safety is hard to understand. Had the truck been involved in an incident, the aftermath would have been dreadful.
A total of 11 trucks were not allowed to travel further due to serious defects. Another 135 heavy vehicles were required to re-adjust their loads. Formal warnings were issued to 13 drivers. Fines for weight breaches were issued to 12 others and 286 had minor issues in regards to load restraint.
One driver of a light vehicle, which was overloaded with pallets, was charged with four counts of loading offences - severe overweight breach, a severe width breach, a substantial length breach and a substantial load restraint breach. The driver and operator will appear in court for the charges.
According to NSW Road Safety, at least 22 fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles have already taken place this year.
Next steps for the taskforce
According to Mr Wells, the taskforce is hot on the heels of offenders.
"Overloading, excess speed and poorly maintained trucks are a deadly combination. It's not really a question of if but when a truck carrying too much weight, travelling too fast and with dangerous brakes or other maintenance issues will come to a dead stop. That is what we are here to avoid," Mr Wells said.
He added the idea behind such surveillance was to create a cultural change within the industry. He acknowledges that at this stage there are motorists who are simply not paying heed to the safety message. However, the risk is too high and the taskforce is going to do everything it can to improve the current situation
Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, commander of the states traffic and highway patrol command, says it is the responsibility of the joint taskforce to ensure NSW roads are safe for everyone. This means freight carrying vehicles need to be careful about the safety of others on the road.
"With recent court outcomes arising from heavy vehicle crashes, the taskforce will enforce road safety for the benefit of all road users," he said.
As well as responsibility for vehicle safety, vehicle owners and drivers are responsible to ensure the green slip and registration are up to date.