If it ain't broke, don't fix it
Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ) Media
Wellington, Saturday, 8 December 2012
If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Vehicle reforms threaten independent road safety checks
Proposed changes to the inspection of trucks and heavy vehicles are economic sleight of hand and could compromise safety instead of improving it, says Vehicle Testing New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Walsh.
The Government is due to announce significant changes to heavy vehicle inspections before Christmas as part of the Vehicle License Reform programme. At present, inspectors do not repair trucks, but VTNZ says that independence is likely to go when the changes are made.
“Removing independence from the inspections means more emphasis on self-regulation and a big investment in auditing, compliance and enforcement – without those safeguards, it can be very hard to maintain the standard and integrity of inspections.
“Taxi deregulation and leaky buildings are examples of what happens when the balance is wrong – it may not happen immediately, but experience shows us what will happen when you relax the rules without the proper checks and balances.”
Walsh says most operators with good safety practices will take the same professional approach to fleet safety they do now, but it’s naïve to think everyone will do the right thing.
VTNZ carries out about 180,000 truck and trailer inspections each year – 86% of all heavy vehicle safety inspections – and he says it’s no coincidence that New Zealand has one of the best heavy vehicle safety records in the world.
“The cornerstone of our system is the independence of inspectors – we have no interest in repairs and there’s never a question that standards or safety will be compromised by commercial pressure.
“It’s very easy to dismiss our comments as self-interest or even scaremongering, but we’re appointed by the NZ Transport Agency to provide a nationwide service that ensures trucks are safe.
“These changes are likely
to see many of our 85 testing stations close and others
reduce services – relaxing inspections would also see
other operators competing for business and there’s only so
much money you can save without compromising
Studies by industry experts and NZTA confirm the current inspection system is accessible, value for money and maintains a high standard of vehicle safety. Over time, these changes could see prices rise and the services reduced – particularly in rural and provincial areas.
“As people travel on the roads this summer, they need to look at the trucks on the other side of the centre line and ask how much deregulation and increased road risk they’re prepared to live with.
“The Government’s been badly advised on these changes,” says Walsh. “Safety concerns have been ignored and the expected changes haven’t been thought through properly.”