Part 2: Response to the Committee’s 7 key recommendations

Progress in implementing key recommendations of the 1996 Transport Committee inquiry into truck crashes.

Recommendation 1: Enforcement of speed limits

Truck speeds must be reduced to their legal limits. We have found that, currently, there is effectively no enforcement of the truck speed limits. The Police must give priority to enforcing truck speeds. The Police have taken delivery of new laser speed guns and, as part of the Police Speed Control Project, need to direct more of these resources into enforcing truck speeds.

The Committee found that trucks were regularly exceeding the speed limits, and that the Police were doing very little to enforce those limits. Its conclusions were based on data supplied by the LTSA and the Police.

The data in Figure 2 below is taken from the 1996 Transport Committee report, and shows that most trucks and truck combinations were exceeding legal speed limits. Truck-trailer units, which had a speed limit of 80km/h, had a mean speed of 92.7km/h, and 66% of such vehicles were exceeding the speed limit by more than 10km/h.

Figure 2
Truck speeds reported by the Transport Committee in 1996*

Truck type** Speed limit (km/h) Mean speed (km/h) % exceeding speed limit by 10km/h or more
Truck-trailers 80 92.7 66
Trucks 90 91.4 16
Semi-trailers 90 94.5 25
B-trains 90 97.0 29
A-trains 80 92.1 58

* Data was collected in 1994.

** Truck types are illustrated in the Appendix on pages 32-33.

In 1994-95, the Police issued a total of 64,395 non-speed-camera speeding offence notices for all motor vehicles. Figure 3 on the next page shows that, of these, only 417 (or 0.65%) were issued for speeding trucks. The Committee concluded from this data that the Police were not enforcing speed limits on trucks.

Figure 3
Speeding offence notices issued for heavy motor vehicles 1994-95

Offence for which speeding offence notices issued Number issued Percentage of all speeding offence notices issued
Heavy motor vehicle towing a trailer, exceeding 80km/h 208 0.32
Articulated heavy motor vehicle exceeding 90km/h 73 0.11
Heavy motor vehicle (not towing a trailer) exceeding 90km/h 136 0.22
Total 417 0.65

Figure 4 below shows the mean open road speed for all truck types from 1995 to 2004, and demonstrates that speeds did not start to fall to any extent until 2000.

In the case of truck-trailer units (which had a speed limit of 80km/h until 3 May 2004), the mean speed fell from 90.7km/h in 2000 to 88.6km/h in 2004.

Figure 4
Mean open road speeds of each truck type 1995-2004

Figure 4.

Mean speeds for A-trains are excluded because of small sample size.

Source: LTSA data.

Figure 5 below shows again that mean speeds did not fall to any extent until 2000. There was no significant change from 2003 to 2004 (89.2km/h in 2004).

Figure 5
Mean speeds of all trucks 1995-2004

Figure 5.

Source: OAG analysis of LTSA data

The Committee’s report also covered the percentage of trucks that had exceeded the speed limit by 10km/h or more. Figure 6 on the next page updates this information, and shows that the percentage of truck-trailers exceeding the speed limit by 10km/h declined sharply from 2000.3

The Police response

The Committee recommended that the Police give priority to enforcing truck speed limits. The Committee noted: “The Police have taken delivery of new laser speed guns and, as part of the Police Speed Control Project, need to direct more of these resources into enforcing truck speeds.”

To see whether the Police gave priority to this recommendation, we looked at the number of speeding offence notices issued for heavy motor vehicles since the Committee’s report, the results of a police initiative to detect speeding trucks with mobile speed cameras, and the formation of the Highway Patrol Unit.

Figure 6
Heavy motor vehicles exceeding speed limit by 10km/h or more 1995-2004

Figure 6.

Source: LTSA data

Figure 7 on the opposite page shows that the level of enforcement has been increasing, but is still low. In 1994-95, only 417 speeding offence notices were issued to the drivers of trucks – just 0.65% of all speeding offence notices (excluding speed camera notices, but including offences detected by the use of speed guns and other enforcement methods). In the years after the Committee’s report, the number of notices issued, as a percentage of all speeding offence notices, fell well below 0.65%. Not until 2000-01 did the percentage rise above the 0.65% level.4

Speed cameras

The Committee’s report concluded that one reason for the high number of trucks exceeding the speed limit was, paradoxically, the introduction of speed cameras –

Speed cameras are triggered when vehicles exceed approximately 110km/h and do not distinguish between trucks and cars. Because of the very limited amount of other speed surveillance, speed camera detection settings have become the de facto speed limit.

Figure 7
Non-speed-camera offences* 1997-2004

Year Truck-trailer units Trucks B-trains and
Total: All trucks All vehicle
Truck speeding
offence notices as percentage of all speeding offence notices
1997-98 285 141 146 572 107,245 0.53
1998-99 354 216 158 728 129,623 0.56
1999-2000 384 195 134 713 121,530 0.59
2000-01 1086 426 468 1980 179,219 1.10
2001-02 1808 817 623 3248 252,508 1.28
2002-03 2289 1151 695 4135 357,095 1.15
2003-04** 1581 975 461 3017 339,406 0.89
2003-04*** - 1164 - 1164 62,217 1.87

* Offences detected other than by speed cameras.

** 1 July 2003 to 2 May 2004.

*** 3 May 2004 to 30 June 2004. The standard speed limit for trucks came into force on 3 May 2004.

Source: Police data.

In an attempt to detect speeding trucks more effectively, the Police introduced a manual over-ride system for mobile speed cameras in early-2001. This allowed the operator to trigger the camera and record the speed of the next vehicle to enter the radar beam. Developed photographs were then sent to the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit (CVIU) in Wellington, and photographs of any vehicles that had exceeded the speed limit by more than 10km/h were sent on to the Police Infringement Bureau.

Figure 8 on the next page shows that the use of mobile speed cameras resulted in only 130 speeding offence notices being issued in the year 2001-02 (about 10,000 photos of speeding trucks are taken each year), which suggests that the procedure has been ineffective in enforcing truck speed limits. Staff who analysed the photographs also found it difficult to distinguish between the different truck combinations, which in 2001-02 operated under different legal speed limits. For example, a B-train, which had a speed limit of 90km/h, looked very much the same from front on as a truck-trailer, which had a speed limit of 80km/h.

Figure 8
Speed-camera offences* 2001-02

Speeding offence Number
Heavy motor vehicle with articulated trailer exceeding 90km/h 9
Heavy motor vehicle with trailer exceeding 80km/h 12
Heavy motor vehicle exceeding 90km/h 109
Total 130

* Offences detected by mobile speed cameras only.

Source: Police data.

Formation of Highway Patrol Unit

At the end of 2000, the Police set up the Highway Patrol Unit to provide a highly visible and dedicated police presence on New Zealand’s State highways. Since the Unit was established:

  • the mean speeds of trucks have declined; and
  • the number of offence notices issued for speeding trucks has increased sharply.

New speed limit introduced

At the time of the Committee’s report in 1996, different legal speed limits applied, depending on the type of truck. Because they were considered unsafe at higher speeds, truck-trailer units (and A-trains) had a speed limit of 80km/h. Other types had a speed limit of 90km/h (see the Appendix on pages 32-33). This made effective speed enforcement difficult, and was the main reason why truck-trailers recorded mean speeds well above their legal limit of 80km/h. The Committee was told that 7-axle truck-trailer combinations were unstable at speeds of more than 90km/h. The Committee concluded that, in the interests of safety, the speed limit for truck-trailers should remain at 80km/h.

In July 2002, the LTSA issued a new rule, called the Vehicle Dimension and Mass Rule, to improve the stability of truck-trailers and A-trains. The technical assessment was that, when truck-trailers and A-trains met the requirements of this rule, they would be as stable as other truck combinations. It would also mean that all truck combinations could safely travel at 90km/h.

In a paper to Cabinet in November 2003, the Ministry outlined the advantages of a standard speed limit for trucks. They included:

  • simpler and more effective police enforcement;
  • a probable decrease in mean speeds, which could be expected to reduce the number of truck crashes; and
  • more efficient traffic flow, because all vehicles would be travelling at similar speeds.

On 3 May 2004, a new standard speed limit of 90km/h for all heavy motor vehicles came into force. The Police have told us that they will now take action against the driver of any truck found to be travelling more than 5km/h (previously 10km/h) above the limit in any speed zone.

Our findings

The Police Commissioner followed up the Committee’s recommendation by instructing his region and district commanders to take immediate steps to enforce the limits on truck speeds. This instruction, issued in late-1996, appeared to have resulted in some reduction in mean speeds in 1997, but speeds increased again in 1998, and the number of speeding offence notices issued for trucks, as a percentage of all notices issued, fell below the figure that the Committee considered represented little enforcement.

The Committee also referred to the delivery of new laser speed guns to the Police. However, we have seen no evidence that special efforts were made to use these guns to enforce truck speeds.

The Highway Patrol Unit was formed in late-2000, and mean speeds have been falling. Mean speeds of trucks are now below the legal speed limit of 90km/h.

Recommendation 2: Removal of trucks from the road

The Police should place less emphasis on issuing offence notices and instead should make more use of their existing powers to order the removal of trucks from the road that are a risk to safety of other road users. The Commissioner of Police should issue a directive to staff reminding them of the need to take such action.

The Committee considered that the relatively small fines imposed on the operators and drivers of unsafe trucks were not a sufficient deterrent. It said that greater compliance with the law could be expected if, for specified offences, vehicles could simply be taken off the road –

Putting a truck out of service requires immediate action by the operator to remedy the fault. This has a far greater deterrent effect than the possibility of receiving a small fine many months later. By ordering a vehicle or driver off the road, the operator is also affected through delayed deliveries and loss of earnings.

Figure 9 on the next page illustrates the very large increase in the number of commercial vehicles (including trucks) ordered off the road since 1998-99, in the main for defective brakes, defective lighting, and expired certificates of fitness. The reasons for this sharp increase include:

  • training for all CVIU staff on how to carry out detailed vehicle safety inspections;
  • the appointment of 4 specialist vehicle safety inspection officers to the CVIU;
  • national standards that put strong emphasis on ordering unsafe vehicles off the road; and
  • the CVIU operating on a national basis since July 1999.

Figure 9
Commercial vehicles ordered off the road since 1998-99

Reporting period Orders issued
By Police Constables By Vehicle Safety
Inspection Officers
1998-99 17 - 17
1999-2000 1407 - 1407
2000-01 2262 - 2262
2001-02 2435 - 2435
2002-03 2933 645 3578
2003-04 4122 1979 6101

Source: Police data

Our findings

The Police were unable to give immediate effect to the Committee’s recommendation that unsafe trucks should be ordered off the road, until the CVIU was able to operate on a national basis and had acquired the necessary skills and training for detailed vehicle safety inspections. Greater numbers of unsafe commercial vehicles are now being ordered off the road.

Recommendation 3: Weigh station operating times

The roadside weigh stations (weighbridges) operated by the Police to check trucks should on occasion be operated for 24-hour periods rather than the current average of 6 to 7 hours. The current opening times of weigh stations mean that not all trucks can be checked.

The Committee considered that, if weighbridges were open for periods of 6 to 7 hours only, it was relatively easy for trucks to avoid them –

When it becomes known that a weighbridge is open, trucks may delay the trip or take a longer route knowing that on the return trip the weighbridge will have closed. They can then travel back on the usual route without losing too much time.

If weighbridges could be opened for 24-hour periods at selected times, the Committee argued, a much larger percentage of trucks could be checked. CVIU staff could also patrol alternative routes to stop trucks bypassing these weighbridges. Since the report, the CVIU has at times operated weighbridges for 24-hour periods. Other methods of making weighbridge operations more effective have also been implemented (for example, by increasing the level of inspection at weighbridges).

In 1998, a working party5 set up as a result of an initiative of the Road Transport Forum concluded that, while fixed weighbridges were an effective deterrent, the CVIU also needed to be able to patrol back roads with mobile equipment, weighing trucks that had bypassed the weighbridges. In 2000-01, the Government approved additional funding to enable the CVIU to purchase 5 additional vehicles and equipment for this purpose.

Currently, the Police enforce the law through:

  • mobile patrols, where CVIU staff stop and weigh trucks at the roadside;
  • fixed weighbridges, which allow large numbers of trucks to be weighed; and
  • a combination of mobile patrols and weighbridges.

Figure 10 on the next page shows the number of offences6 detected compared with the number of trucks stopped at weighbridges. In 2003-04, for example, an offence was detected for every 8.3 trucks checked at a fixed weighbridge. For mobile patrols, the figure was an offence detected for every 4.1 trucks checked (the difference reflects the nature of covert versus overt policing). While weighbridges detect fewer defects per vehicle stopped, they have an important deterrent effect because of their ability to inspect greater numbers of vehicles at lower cost.

The Ministry’s 2000 update to the Committee commented that, if enforcement and other initiatives were having a positive effect on safety, the ratio of detected trucks to the number of trucks checked should be expected to drop. However, Figure 10 shows that there has been no significant change in the figure for mobile patrols, and for fixed weighbridges the defect rate has increased. The increase in the number of offences detected is likely to be due to the increased level of inspection that the CVIU has applied, particularly for roadworthiness.

Figure 10
Ratio of detected truck offences to number of trucks checked

Reporting period Mobile patrols Fixed weighbridges Combination of
mobile patrols and
2000-01 1:3.8 1:15 1:5.1
2001-02 1:4.3
1:11 1:6.1
2002-03 1:3.9 1:12 1:6.6
2003-04 1:4.1 1:8.3 1:6.2

Source: Police data

In July 2004, the LTSA published a “Categorisation of Defects” guideline – a system for classifying truck defects based on the risk to the safe operation of the vehicle. The LTSA says its intention is to provide consistent and improved guidelines for detecting truck defects during audits and roadside/weighbridge inspections, and that the industry has sought such guidance. The guidelines categorise defects as dangerous, serious, or moderate, depending on the safety risk. The guidelines are also for the use of truck operators, who can check their vehicles themselves and have faults fixed before going on the road.

Our findings

The CVIU has implemented the Committee’s recommendation, in that weighbridges have been operated for much longer periods, and other ways of making them more effective have been implemented (for example, by increasing the level of inspection at weighbridges).

The LTSA has issued guidelines for classifying truck defects during an audit or a roadside or weighbridge inspection. Such standardised check systems are likely to increase compliance levels, as all parties know what is expected of them. We see real merit in such a transparent and consistent approach.

Recommendations 4 and 5: Operation of the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit

The Committee made two recommendations on the operation of the CVIU. The first was that the unit should be allocated a substantial proportion of the truck enforcement hours earmarked for other police staff. The second was that the CVIU should operate as one national unit “to enhance co-ordination of staff and improve enforcement.”

In 1996, the CVIU had a staff of 44, spread throughout 5 police regions and reporting to regional police commanders. This resulted in co-ordination problems that made it difficult to target truck operators who flouted the law. The Committee commented –

For example, to take effective enforcement action against operators who allow their drivers to breach driving hour restrictions may require the combined action of CVIU staff in more than one Police region. This is because trucks travel through more than one Police region and any surveillance work to detect breaches of driving hours requires the combined effort of staff from other regions. Such action is difficult when Police Commanders place restrictions on their staff working in other regions.

However, the Committee found the CVIU to be far more effective than other police units in enforcing the law governing the operation of trucks, and recommended that the Unit be allocated a big slice of the truck enforcement hours then earmarked for other police staff.

In 1996-97, the CVIU was allocated 83,325 hours, and for the 2004-05 year 166,770 hours. The unit now has a total staff of 109, including 4 vehicle safety officers who run visual safety checks on tyres, brakes, lights, suspensions, and towing connections. From 1 October 2003 to 30 June 2004, these officers inspected 7888 trucks and 6990 heavy trailers. The results of these inspections showed that 31% of trucks and 47% of heavy trailers had faults.

The Police have acted on the Committee’s recommendation, and the CVIU is now a national service under the control of a national manager. In September 2001, the Ministry told the Committee that the Unit was continuing to operate very successfully.

Our findings

The Police have effectively implemented the recommendations of the Committee on the operation of the CVIU. Enforcement hours have been substantially increased, the unit now has more than twice the staff it had in 1996, and it is now able to target offenders without worrying about police boundaries. The unit is also putting more emphasis on vehicle safety and has taken on staff to check that trucks meet mechanical safety standards. All CVIU staff have now been trained in vehicle safety inspection.

Recommendation 6: Ministry of Transport action plan

The Ministry of Transport should oversee our recommendations and develop an action plan for considering and implementing the recommendations. There should be a review at the end of six months on what short-term recommendations have been implemented and on the action plan for the other recommendations.


Since 1997, the Ministry has reported on the progress that Government agencies have made in implementing the Committee’s recommendations. Reports were made in 1997 and 2000, with the latest in September 2001. They were comprehensive, and covered all recommendations in the Committee’s report, together with a summary of the action taken by the relevant agencies.

Our findings and recommendations

After the report of the Committee in 1996, the Ministry provided updates to the Committee on progress in implementing its recommendations. These updates stopped several years ago. In our view, it would be useful if these updates were to be continued, as they provided a comprehensive picture of truck safety issues.

Recommendation 1
We recommend that the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee ask the Ministry of Transport to resume its regular progress reports, and that the reports cover:
  • trends in fatal truck crashes;
  • trends in mean speeds of all truck types, by police district;
  • police enforcement data on truck speeds, by police district;
  • progress in applying the Health and Safety in Employment Act to transport operations;
  • trends in the number of truck rollover crashes;
  • progress with the operator safety rating system (OSRS); and
  • the results of truck brake enforcement and testing.
Recommendation 2
For completeness, we recommend that the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee ask the Ministry of Transport to report on the action taken to implement the other 60 recommendations from the 1996 Transport Committee report.

Recommendation 7: Applying the Health and Safety in Employment Act

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 should be applied immediately to truck operations by the Occupational Safety and Health Service, in conjunction with the Police, especially for serious offending where the full force of the Act is justifiable.

The Committee’s report cited examples of trucking company managers encouraging their employees to work in dangerous situations. These included:

  • An Auckland employer of contracted delivery drivers who operated a financial incentive system that encouraged contractors to compete with each other for extra delivery work. Staff worked on the rear decks of moving trucks, sorting loads in preparation for a fast turnaround at each delivery site. A worker was killed when he fell from the back of a truck travelling down a main street.
  • A national trucking company operating between Auckland to Wellington that required its drivers to maintain average speeds of between 95km/h and 100.6km/h for the entire trip – well above the legal speed of 90km/h. The LTSA pointed out that, because the highway network runs through so many towns, where speed limits of 50km/h or less would apply, average point-to-point truck speeds should be no more than 75km/h.
  • Contracts under which drivers were expected to exceed legal requirements governing the number of hours they could work each day.

In September 2001, the Ministry told the Committee – as part of its reporting on implementation of the Committee’s recommendations – that the road transport industry stood out as having made a relatively high number of accident compensation claims, and that the Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) had targeted the industry for workplace visits and information programmes. This involved basic information on the requirements of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (the Act), and an assessment of operators’ systems for managing hazards.

It is important to keep in mind that there were two parts to the Committee’s recommendation. The first was that OSH and the Police should work together to address significant work safety issues. This did not happen. The workplace visits carried out by OSH would have given transport industry workers some useful information, but fell well short of the Committee’s recommendation.

The Committee also recommended that the Police be appointed inspectors under the Act. The Committee believed that, because of their day-to-day contact with drivers and driving situations, police were best placed to investigate breaches of the Act in relation to trucking. Until recently, the Department of Labour (the Department) has taken little action on this recommendation.

According to the Department, there were two reasons for that. The first was the uncertainty about whether the Act applied to situations where workers, such as truck drivers, were mobile in the course of their employment. In its 1996 report, the Committee took the view that a truck was a workplace within the meaning of the Act. This was also the view of the Department, but Court decisions7 created some uncertainty about whether, and to what extent, the Act applied to situations where workers were mobile.

Any doubt over this point was removed in 2002 by statutory amendments which clarified that a vehicle could constitute a “place of work” for the purposes of the Act, and that a person could still be in a “place of work” while mobile. Thus, that issue should no longer be – if it ever was – an impediment to enforcing the Act in this field.

According to the Department, the second reason why it took little immediate action on the Committee’s recommendation was because of past concerns about the Secretary of Labour’s accountability for non-departmental staff involved in compliance activities. The December 2002 amendment to the Act also inserted a new section 28A, which allows the Prime Minister to designate other agencies to administer the Act for a particular industry, sector, or type of work.

The Department told us that the new section had been used to empower the Maritime Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority to administer the Act for ships and aircraft respectively. In the Department’s view, this resolved the issue of accountability, because it made the chief executive of a designated agency accountable, rather than the Secretary of Labour.

After the Act was amended, the Department considered recommending that police be designated to administer the Act under section 28A, but decided that it was not feasible, given the spread of policy, education, and enforcement functions throughout the various land transport agencies. Instead, it has decided to work with the Police to manage accountability issues.

The Department is now training and warranting members of the CVIU under the section of the Act that allows the Secretary of Labour to appoint any person with the prescribed qualifications to the position of Health and Safety Inspector. Eighty CVIU staff are now qualified to be appointed inspectors under section 29(1) of the Act and 71 have received their warrants. This means that the Police can now take the enforcement action recommended by the Committee.

Our findings

In our view, the Department of Labour should have signalled its concerns about accountability to the Committee. Progress reports made no mention of the Department’s intention not to act on the Committee’s recommendation for the legislation to be immediately applied to the trucking industry until accountability issues had been resolved. We are pleased that real progress has been made in implementing this recommendation.

3: The speed value for truck-trailers for 2004 is not included, as the speed limit for these vehicles was raised to 90km/h just before the survey was undertaken.

4: The data in Figure 7 compares speeding offence notices issued to drivers of heavy trucks for exceeding open road speed limits with those issued to vehicles exceeding the limits in all speed zones. It is not a strict “like for like” comparison because of the difficulty the Committee had in limiting that data to only vehicles exceeding open road speed limits. We have obtained data that compares the percentage of heavy trucks exceeding open road speeds with other vehicles doing the same. The figures are: 2000-01 2.4%; 2001-02 2.4%; 2002-03 2.6% (source: Police data).

5: With representation from the Road Transport Forum (a group representing road transport users), the Ministry of Transport, LTSA, and the Police.

6: Roadside and weighbridge enforcement can include checks of:

  • road-user charges;

  • truck registration;

  • Certificates of Fitness;

  • vehicle weight;

  • driver logbooks;

  • security of loads; and

  • roadworthiness.

7: Department of Labour v Berryman (1996) DCR 121. Also Department of Labour v Diveco Ltd (Court of Appeal CA98/04 [8 November 2004].

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