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Copping a beating from state of forestry roads

Logging trucks are being “beaten to death” by the poor state of Gisborne’s forestry roads, the regional transport committee was told.

In a presentation to the committee, Sergeant Chris Quinn, who heads the police regional commercial vehicle safety team, said roads into skid sites were not designed for the heavy vehicles using them.

His comment came while giving the results of two annual programmes — Operation Rattle and Operation Summer.

Operation Rattle is traditionally run in the October-November period and focuses mainly on logging trucks. It is followed by Operation Summer in the harvest season.

The increase of vehicles in recent years had meant an increase in those stopped.

Sgt Quinn said it was disappointing that the number of vehicles they were finding with defects was not declining.

In Operation Rattle, run from November 2 to 6 last year, 41 percent of vehicles stopped had faults ranging from broken reflectors to major problems with the braking system.

There were 71 braking faults and 46 lighting faults found.

Brakes were something that would be hard for a driver to visibly inspect before he operated the vehicle. However, the rest could be picked up in a pre-drive check.

Sgt Quinn said a compounding problem for Operation Rattle was that fleets had been upgraded considerably through a large amount of investment . . . “but the roads that they are using them on are not designed for transporting 46-to-47-tonne loads so the trucks are literally getting beaten to death”.

“The major players in the industry in Gisborne have been quick to respond to that . . . with the building of a very big workshop in the airport area while the education of drivers is continually increasing.”

Operation Summer tended to cover the harvest vehicles but they missed out this year because of the change of season.

The vehicles they stopped were not really their target ones, he said. A total of 156 vehicles were stopped and 34 percent of those had faults, with the same sort of faults featuring.

“It is going to be ongoing,” said Sgt Quinn.

The take-up by all industries from protection visits had been encouraging.

Sgt Quinn said they decided some time ago it was pointless prosecuting. Prevention visits could save a lot of work for everyone and lift the compliance rate.

The other issue they had been involved in was complaints from Awapuni Road residents, who believed that trucks, particularly logging trucks, were exceeding the speed limit.

Following covert and overt operations, Sgt Quinn said they came to the conclusion it was more perception of speed rather than an actual speed problem.

The NZ Transport Agency looked at this and he believed the solution would probably be in a special seal, known as “hush seal”, that was going to be put on Awapuni Road.

At the moment, even if there was not a speed problem it was still affecting residents’ ability to sleep at night.

The NZTA was looking to fix it and Sgt Quinn said he did not believe the trucking industry was at fault.

Apart from that the commercial safety team were working closely with any industry that would have them. There had been really good buy-in from the Gisborne transport industry.

Transport committee member Meredith Akuhata-Brown said she still saw truck drivers using their cellphones and she asked if there had been a rise in this.

Sergeant Quinn said 39 infringement notices were issued for cellphone use while driving during Operation Harvest. However, few of them were in the commercial industry; most were people driving light vehicles.

The safety team were promoting the use of bluetooth earpieces in trucks, he said.

Committee member Malcolm Maclean said when you travelled behind logging trucks it became evident the trailer was swinging. Was that an indication the truck was travelling too fast?

Sergeant Glenn said it was probably more an indication of the way the vehicle was loaded. While he was not saying it did not happen, overloading was not a significant issue. It was more the way the load had been crowded from left to right, making for a slight instability.