Unsafe heavy vehicle drivers be warned – the NZ Transport Agency’s Project 2 to 5 initiative is operational and eying the bad apples of the industry.
The project involves examining the full driving history of the approximately 500,000 class 2, 3, 4 and 5 licence holders in New Zealand. Included in the assessments is a review of the licence holders’ offences in private vehicles. About 230,000 of the classes 2 to 5 licence holders have been found to be working in the commercial sector and so require closer scrutiny. The ongoing project went into operation in April and has so far been encouraging, says NZTA’s safer commercial transport lead advisor, Kevin Anderson. “The thinking is that you can’t be a good driver at work and a bad driver in your personal life. That’s why we feel it is important to review drivers’ full driving history.” So far, some 12,000 drivers have been uncovered with poor records driving private vehicles, and so will bear further examination. However, Anderson says the encouraging news is that the vast majority of driving records that have been looked at have been exemplary. “That means most of our heavy vehicle drivers have no offences even in their private vehicles, which is very heartening.” The NZTA is attempting to change the behaviour of some drivers by deterring them from reoffending. The association says that in 50% of crashes involving heavy vehicles, the drivers are assessed as having been at fault. And, because of the size of such vehicles, the number of fatalities per crash is disproportionately high.
When assessing driving records, a weighting system is used, with the most recent incidents being given the most weight. In addition, serious offending, as opposed to relatively minor offences, is also given much more weight. Once drivers have been identified as having records of concern under Project 2 to 5, NZTA has a number of options available, ranging from issuing letters of warning to issuing notices of proposal to revoke and disqualify. Sometimes an immediate suspension is issued when a driver’s records are of serious concern and immediate action is required. “When we issue these warnings to drivers, we also notify their employers, giving employers the chance to work with drivers to improve their driving standards and up their game on their own work safety practices.” Transport operators who register their drivers in the Transport Operator Registry Online (TORO) are able to see when their drivers have received 50 and 100 demerit points, as well as when the drivers’ licence status changes. Anderson says that the responses by drivers who have been identified as having unsatisfactory driving records have been mixed. “Some have been genuinely surprised at their level of offending when it is laid out in front of them. What has been most encouraging is that in about 50% of the cases we have identified, drivers have now stopped offending entirely. “We notified one driver of his unsatisfactory private vehicle driving record and outlined the potential consequences for him if it did not improve. We then heard from his wife, who assured us he would not be driving badly again. Her assurance brooked no argument, and we were confident in that case that the safety message was being delivered strongly!”