Truck blitz bites during harvest

VFF president David Jochinke says a roadworthy blitz on trucks at harvest has been overzealous.
Nanjing Night Net

A BLITZ on Victoria’s grain truck fleet is resulting in large numbers of trucks being declared unroadworthy for what many growers suggest are minor infractions.

Victorian Police confirmed its Heavy Vehicle Unit had handed out 111 infraction notices during a weeklong blitz in Warracknabeal from 28 November to December 2.

A spokesman said along with the defect notices there were seven unroadworthy certificates issued.

There have also been inspections of trucks in other areas such as Birchip and Murtoa as part of a crackdown on farm safety which have also resulted in sanctions on truck owners.

Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president David Jochinke said he had received close to 50 calls this week alone on the issue.

“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.”

However, the spokesman for the police said on many occasions drivers with minor faults were not issued with a defect notice and were given the opportunity to get certain defects fixed.

Mr Jochinke said he understood safety concerns were paramount, but said stakeholders needed 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.”

Local truck mechanics in the Wimmera say they are booked up with repair jobs, often for issues as small as paint wear or seat repairs.

In some cases the trucks’ factory settings are being declared unroadworthy, such as in one case where the speed limiter was set at 100.01 kilometres per hour.

“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.”

Mr Jochinke said the matter had been referred to the State Government.

Victoria Police said the Heavy Vehicle Unit was targeting driver fatigue, overloading and roadworthy issues during its operation.

The spokesman said trucks that were not operated all year round often needed repair to meet safety standards.

He also said growers had the option of seeking an extension to address their defect notices.

“A person, who receives a defect notice and requires an extension of time, can do so by contacting the local police to seek such an extension under the heavy vehicle national law.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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