Truckies’ advocate Rod Hannifey has another urgent order of business to add to his busy campaigning schedule in 2021.
While fighting for more rest areas remains a top priority, the newly appointed President of the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) is also calling for a radical reduction in police compliance powers in HVNL jurisdictions.
Although he says it’s not an official NRFA policy yet, Hannifey says the change is long overdue and he’ll be lobbying hard for it to be included on the association’s hit-list.
“Police are not fully trained to investigate and understand transport law,” said Hannifey.
Hannifey is tired of hearing from truckies about being “knocked off” by police for alleged offences that appear to be little more than administration errors.
“I’ve only just spoken to a guy on email recently who said police went back through the book to front page and knocked him off on two things that no importance for road safety.
“I believe that at the absolute minimum if the NHVR had oversight, or at least an oversight of any offences issued under HVNL by the police, then we might get some sort of fair go.”
At present he said it feels like the NHVR’s compliance strategy of education over penalties is the direct opposite to the approach of many police.
“The problem we have now is that too often police will look until they find something, knock you off and drive away saying they’ve done their job and helped with road safety.
“I would argue that is not the case.
“The trouble is they can interpret the law as they see fit, and that’s one of the things we’ve raised for the last 10 years. The law must be black and white. Then we can understand it and you can police it.
“But If they’re allowed to interpret and then send you off with a fine of $500-$600, then we’re talking about your earnings for a week and what you can feed your family with.
“Does that improve your behaviour? No, it generally makes it worse because you get crankier with them because you don’t think you’re being treated fairly.
“Does it improve road safety? Did you learn a lesson? Did it help you be a better driver? Can’t find too many people who say that happens either.
“And then when you wish to challenge it, it goes up before someone who has no idea of trucks, who still doesn’t understand the law and they just say, ‘too bad, if you don’t like it, go to court’.
“I don’t think that’s anywhere near the outcome that the NHVR wants. So, I want them far more involved, and if they can’t control the police, then we should remove police, like they have in WA.”
Hannifey also said police ‘blitzes’ on heavy vehicles are a classic example of their powers being out of synch with the spirit in which the HVNL was first devised.
“If they find serious defects, the industry wants to know, we want our trucks to be safe, but they go out and grandiose it and say we got all these offences and won’t tell the truth about what they are.
“Of course, the worse they make it sound, the more likely they are to get overtime and have another big blitz on us again.”
Hannifey is hopeful the upcoming overhaul of the HVNL will fix these issues, but is worried about the impacts on truckies in the ensuing months.
“All I want is fair treatment. At the moment, the way the logbook and law is structured, it’s too easy for them to find a mistake that has nothing to do with road safety and fine you a week’s wages for it.”