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Any large heavy vehicle caught driving 15km/h or more above the speed limit would be forced off the road on the spot under tough new laws proposed to take on rogue trucking operators who purposely speed to stay in business.
The proposed new laws would treat any detected speed above 115km/h as hard evidence a heavy vehicle's electronic speed limiter had been illegally tampered with. The truck would therefore be ruled as defective and instantly grounded.
The laws would significantly boost police powers to enforce road safety, giving them authority they currently do not possess to instantly pull speeding trucks off the road.
They have been put forward for investigation by the National Transport Commission, a federal authority, as a means to make the roads safer by making it quicker and easier to prosecute cowboy transport companies.
Elements of the proposed legislation are modelled on existing anti-hoon laws that give police the authority to immobilise and impound vehicles caught doing more than 45km/h over the speed limit.
The National Transport Commission said in a discussion paper that the heavy vehicle industry still has rogue operators who tamper with speed limiters fitted into large trucks to cap their speeds at 100km/h.
"Available data shows that a high proportion of heavy vehicles exceed speed limits on open and urban roads," the commission said. "It is estimated that if all heavy vehicles were to comply with speed limits all the time, there would be a 29 per cent reduction in crashes."
Figures show that heavy vehicles feature disproportionately in serious and deadly crashes. They make up just 3 per cent of registered vehicles on Australian roads, do 8 per cent of kilometres travelled and are involved in 18 per cent of fatal and serious injury crashes on the road.
But industry groups have canned the idea, arguing the instantaneous grounding of speeding trucks would not only punish offending trucking companies, but innocent businesses waiting to receive the truckload of goods.
It would also create problems if the offending vehicle was carrying livestock, perishables or medicines, an issue acknowledged by the commission.
One prominent industry group argued the potential laws were poorly targeted and invested too much power in ordinary police officers.
"To claim that 'anti-hoon' laws are 'comparable' to this proposal ... is simply erroneous," Michael Kilgariff, the Australian Logistics Council chief executive, argued in a submission published on the National Transport Commission's website on Friday.
"Most 'hoon' laws involve the unlawful use of passenger vehicles ... with the immediate impoundment only directly affecting those in the vehicle, and the vehicle's owner," he wrote.
"In this case, the consignees and consignors of the freight being carried are immediately impacted by the grounding."
The Truck Industry Council argued enforcement measures should target speeding drivers, not vehicles.
"If a heavy vehicle is caught speeding and there is no evidence to show that a vehicle defect has caused the speeding incident, the truck driver should be grounded, but not the truck," chief technical officer Mike Hammond wrote.
Toll, Australia's largest transport operator, also opposed the idea, arguing its own use of speed limiters had helped it achieve a huge reduction in speeding infringements by its drivers.
Toll gives its drivers three warnings for a moderate speed breach of up to six kilometres over the limit before they face the sack, but terminates the employment of any driver recorded doing more than 10km/h over the limit.
The National Transport Commission plans to submit its policy proposals to the federal government in November.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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