Road Transport Forum News

 
ORS review flying under the radar

ORS review flying under the radar

Road Transport Forum News

 June 2019    RTF News

As the New Zealand Transport Agency's regulatory catchup work rolls on – after a decade of inattention and under-resourcing – transport operators are having to deal with the day-to-day impacts of the constantly-changing compliance landscape.

However, that is not the end of it! Operators should also be anticipating and preparing for significant changes to how they're assessed (in the Operator Rating System and when applying for heavy vehicle permits) in future.

In the case of the heavy vehicle specialist certifier compliance review, the Road Transport Forum is becoming more and more frustrated that road transport businesses are having to pay the price for the NZTA's regulatory failures over the last decade or so.

April's announcement that the situation with the Patrick Chu designed drawbars and drawbeams was worse than previously thought, was another blow to a number of operators.

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As the New Zealand Transport Agency's regulatory catchup work rolls on – after a decade of inattention and under-resourcing – transport operators are having to deal with the day-to-day impacts of the constantly-changing compliance landscape.
However, that is not the end of it! Operators should also be anticipating and preparing for significant changes to how they're assessed (in the Operator Rating System and when applying for heavy vehicle permits) in future.
In the case of the heavy vehicle specialist certifier compliance review, the Road Transport Forum is becoming more and more frustrated that road transport businesses are having to pay the price for the NZTA's regulatory failures over the last decade or so.
April's announcement that the situation with the Patrick Chu designed drawbars and drawbeams was worse than previously thought, was another blow to a number of operators.
The Agency's decision to deal with the problem by granting exemptions for three, six, or 12 months, means that some operators are having to deal with running trailers with a 25% reduction in operating mass.
Under the circumstances, RTF accepts that the exemption programme and the mass reductions are the only responsible way of protecting public safety. However, such actions as undertaken by the Agency do have significant financial ramifications for many operators – and potential wider economic impacts.
I really feel for those businesses who, through no fault of their own, are suffering. Transport operators, just like everyone else out there on the road, expect and rely on professional engineering services to make sure that the equipment they use is safe. Operators also expect NZTA to carry out its auditing functions to verify the competency of those engineers.
For the Agency to not have appropriate oversight is no different to the debacle over the substandard warrant of fitness assessments that have also been uncovered as part of the NZTA's regulatory failings. It is unacceptable and RTF expects Government ministers to take the necessary steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.
While the issues with engineering certifiers and transport service licence revocations have made all the headlines and are certainly having an impact on some trucking businesses, all operators should keep an eye on what is in many ways flying under the radar at the moment – the revision of the Operator Rating System.
As road transport operators know, the ORS hasn't been fit for purpose for some time and in many cases provides an extremely narrow assessment of an operator's compliance record – based on CoF inspections, roadside inspections and relevant traffic offences and infringements.
As has also been reported, the current system is inequitable because operators whose trucks spend most of their time on back roads are far less likely to get pulled over for roadside inspections than their counterparts operating on the main highways.
While we don't yet know the results of NZTA's review, it's likely that more compliance data will be included in the ORS calculations, as well as adjustments made to the weightings of some criteria to ensure a more reliable and indicative overall ORS rating.
While some operators may be disadvantaged in the short term by the Agency's decision not to issue updated ORS scores in February, this short-term inconvenience will hopefully lead to a better, more accurate system that will benefit safety-conscious, compliant operators.
NZTA is also looking to strengthen the assessment when an operator applies for a heavy vehicle permit. These changes are designed to provide a more comprehensive understanding of compliance and will include investigating whether there have been any driver fatigue or distraction issues, RUC evasions or speeding offences.
NZTA has advised that the new regime may increase the assessment timeframes, depending on the review required – and it will take longer to consider cases where non-compliance is found. Permits will not be issued if non-compliance is considered a safety risk.
While updating the ORS has the potential to be positive for compliant businesses, we do caution the Agency against trying to apply an overly-legalistic and bureaucratic approach.
Any changes need to be workable from the perspective of safety and compliance, while allowing acquiescent businesses to keep their vehicles on the road without having to deal with burdensome compliance measures.
While safety should always be a priority, Government must make sure that the regulatory dial is not shifted too far.
Excessive compliance can have a major impact, particularly on small transport businesses. And unnecessarily forcing them out of the industry will most definitely have widespread economic and social impacts.


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