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Drug-free drivers positive highlight for Operation Austrans

Drug-free drivers positive highlight for Operation Austrans

Police are pleased that a recent road safety operation targeting thousands of heavy vehicles has revealed no drug driving or dangerous driving offences – but say the large number of infringements issued for mechanical issues and overloading is disappointing.

During Operation Austrans, which ran from 20 May to 16 June, Police stopped and checked 4185 heavy vehicles across the country, with a focus on targeting road safety issues such as fatigue and vehicle compliance, says National Manager Road Policing, Superintendent Carey Griffiths. Police in Australian jurisdictions also ran similar parallel operations.

The Police Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit led the operation, with assistance from a number of other groups, including the Highway Patrol, Strategic Traffic Units and the CIB.

Among the vehicles checked were 339 coaches and buses, 498 truck and trailer units, 740 articulated trucks, 1383 B-Trains and 1225 rigid trucks.

“A very pleasing aspect of the operation was the lack of any offences detected for drug-related driving, despite Police having conducted 2300 roadside tests,” Supt. Griffiths says. “Additionally, there were no offences for dangerous driving, with only one offence for driving while impaired by fatigue and two for drink-driving.

“While it’s been encouraging to see a good level of compliance in a number of areas, sadly, the operation was marred by three fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles, and our sympathies are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives.”

Overall, Police issued 2013 infringements for a range of issues, with 811 warnings given. However, Supt. Griffiths says Police are disappointed at the 580 offences picked up for maintenance related issues, including various vehicle defects and faults, while another 385 offences were detected for loading-related breaches, including exceeding safe load weight limits and dimensions.

This included a truck and trailer unit seen struggling up a slight incline in wet conditions, which on inspection was found to have six smooth tyres, and to be overloaded by 6700kg. The vehicle was checked again nine days later and it was found that a further two tyres had steel cord showing.

Other problems included a log truck and trailer unit detected with a number of faults, such as worn seat belts, oil leaks, and badly worn steering components, while another truck and trailer unit was being operated without any rear brakes, and the trailer of another logging truck ‘lost’ its rear axle after it broke away completely on one side.

A number of other vehicles were found to be overloaded by several thousand kilograms, while 182 infringements for excess speed were issued. The speed limit for heavy vehicles is 90km/h.

“These operations however are not just about issuing infringements,” Supt Griffiths says. “They are also an excellent opportunity to engage with individual drivers and heavy vehicle companies about how they can improve the safety of their operations, which ultimately benefits everyone.

“While the heavy vehicle industry generally is very proactive in operating safely, as this operation shows, we can never become complacent, and Police will continue to work with the industry to ensure our roads remain safe.”

Because of their large mass, trucks tend to be over-represented in serious crashes. Deaths from crashes involving trucks make up around 15% of the total road toll, while only about 6% of the total distance travelled on NZ roads is travelled by trucks.

Operation Austrans was a joint Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA) initiative, which involves Police from New Zealand and Australian jurisdictions.

A recent Police operation focused on improving heavy vehicle safety and compliance.


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