A recent blitz on Victoria’s grain truck fleet has left a number of vehicles being declared unroadworthy and many growers are concerned because they say their vehicles had only minor infractions.
The Vic Police said its Heavy Vehicle Unit handed out 111 infraction notices during the blitz in Warracknabeal from 28 November until 2 December. There were also 7 unroadworthy certificates issued in the crackdown on farm safety. The blitz also resulted in sanctions on truck owners.
Farmers have since raised concerns with the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF). VFF president David Jochinke said he had received close to 50 calls this week alone because of the blitz.
He went on to state:
“Farmers are concerned, it is their livelihoods here, their busiest time of the year and they are being forced off the road,” Mr Jochinke said.
“There are guys that have had to park the header up for a couple of days while they get their trucks in for what are very minor repairs, it has had a big impact, especially after two years of drought.”
On the contrary, police have said that many drivers with minor faults were given a chance to get small defects fixed and were not issued with a defect notice.
Mr Jochinke responded with calls for stakeholders to work better together,
“It’s great to see major issues such as brakes and bald tyres being pulled up, but there needs to be some continuity to it all.”
“We’ve heard nothing of this in the lead-up to harvest and once we are going this starts, it makes more sense to start these discussions in August or September and trucks can be checked then, rather than when growers are at the busiest time of the season.”
Victoria Police said the blitz was targeting driver fatigue, overloading and unroadworthy issues.
In Wimmera, local truck mechanics say they are fully booked with jobs as small as paint wear or seat repairs.
In one case a truck speed limiter was factory set to 100.01 and the truck was deemed unroadworthy. Mr Jochinke explained,
“The feedback I am getting has been that the work has not been a collaboration to improve road safety but rather it has been fairly heavy handed,” Mr Jochinke said.
“Many of the farmers I have spoken to have said they felt quite intimidated during the checks.”
“We don’t mind the police doing their job and we want safer roads, but we question why they are going about it to the nth degree at this particular time.”
“One of the constant grievances I am hearing from the farmers is that the truck operators are being forced to dot the Is and cross the Ts but drive on roads that are far more likely to lead to an accident due to their substandard condition.”
The concerns have been referred to the State Government.